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EGYPT: U.S. Embassy to begin voluntary evacuation flights Monday

January 30, 2011 |  1:44 pm

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo plans to begin flying Americans out of Egypt on chartered planes Monday, according to a Sunday statement.

The announcement came hours after the embassy advised Americans in Egypt to consider leaving as soon as possible. The statement said the State Department is making arrangements to provide those who want to leave with flights to “safe-haven locations in Europe.”

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs told CNN that the government-chartered flights will continue after Monday.

“They will be ongoing until we are able to get all Americans who are not able to get out via commercial airlines,” Jacobs said.

She advised Americans to limit travel in Egypt and urged those with relatives in Egypt to convey flight information to them directly, since access to the department's website is limited within Egypt.

The department earlier moved to reduce diplomatic staff in Egypt, authorizing the voluntary departure of diplomats and nonessential workers.

Britain recommended its citizens leave Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, “where it is safe to do so.”

An accountant at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Egypt was among those killed in street clashes in Cairo on Saturday on his way home from work, an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters.

The spokesman said the government was sending a plane to Cairo on Sunday to pick up the body and evacuate about 70 Azerbaijanis studying in Egypt.

The Japanese government was preparing Sunday to use chartered planes to fly out 600 Japanese nationals stranded in or around Cairo, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The Greek foreign ministry told Reuters that at least two Greek military aircraft were on standby to evacuate citizens from Egypt.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki dispatched his presidential plane to Egypt to pick up Iraqi citizens, and the Iraqi transport ministry ordered free transportation on Iraqi Airways for Iraqi citizens leaving Egypt, a ministry spokesman told Reuters.

The Belgian travel agency Jetair, owned by TUI Travel, said on its website that it was working on an evacuation plan that would begin Monday for customers who are in Egypt. Belgian media said about 1,700 tourists were subject to the plan.

Turkey also offered to evacuate citizens wanting to leave Egypt on Sunday.

As some European companies started evacuating staff Sunday, Reuters reported that the scene at Cairo Airport had become chaotic as travelers competed for a dwindling number of flights. U.S.-based Delta Air Lines told Reuters that as of Friday it was suspending service into Cairo indefinitely, but other major airlines, including Lufthansa and Air India, said they would send additional planes to Cairo and Alexandria.

At the same time many were preparing to flee the country, others were sheltering in place or pursuing holiday travel.

The Philippines foreign ministry readied a $567,000 emergency fund for the evacuation of about 6,600 Filipinos on Sunday, while Thailand advised some 2,600 Thais in the country to stay put, Reuters reported.

“They have been asked to stay indoors with food and water in case of an emergency,” Thai ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi told Reuters.

Most of the estimated 40,000 Russians vacationing in Egypt have no plans to cut short their trips despite the protests, the acting head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, Alexander Radkov, told the Interfax news agency on Saturday.

“On the whole, the situation in Egyptian resorts remains calm. ... People do not want to interrupt their holiday,” he said.

Tour operator TUI Deutschland said cancellations and rebookings of trips to the Red Sea coast had so far not increased, and Thomas Cook flew a fresh batch of tourists to the region from Germany on Sunday.

“Our guests are doing fine. And none of them have said they want to come home now,” a Thomas Cook spokeswoman told Reuters.

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Hundreds of people swarm Cairo International Airport in an attempt to leave the country on Jan. 30, 2011. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

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