Evacuations begin amid Egypt travel warnings

Last Updated: Monday, January 31, 2011 - 08:36

Washington: Countries around the globe warned against visiting Egypt and some began evacuating their citizens as bloody anti-government protests raged into a seventh day.

The United States and Iraq said they were starting to organise evacuations of their nationals, while Turkey, India, Greece, Canada and Saudi Arabia either planned to or had already sent planes to begin taking out their citizens.

Britain, France, China, Australia, Argentina and Nordic countries warned their citizens not to travel to the country but had no plans yet for full-scale evacuations.

"US citizens in Egypt should consider leaving as soon as they can do so," Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs told reporters in a conference call.

The United States plans to begin evacuating Americans on Monday aboard government-arranged chartered planes. Athens, Istanbul and Nicosia have been identified as possible "safe havens”. She did not know the number of Americans in Egypt.

Iraq said it would lay on special flights to evacuate its citizens from Egypt and Turkey said it sent five planes to evacuate its approximately 750 citizens registered in the country.

Saudi Arabia said it organised 33 flights between Saturday and Monday to take its nationals home.

India sent a passenger plane to Cairo to evacuate Indian citizens, as did the small ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, which said one of its embassy staff had been killed from a gunshot wound in the unrest.

The Canadian government "is recommending that Canadians leave”, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said on Sunday. Ottawa planned to charter planes to get Canadians to evacuation points in Europe, possibly beginning on Monday.

Britain was advising its nationals to leave flashpoint Egyptian cities, but tour operators stressed there was no need to pull tourists out of popular Red Sea resorts.

The British Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Luxor.

"We do want people to take the opportunity if they are able to leave... but as yet the situation has not reached the stage where we would necessarily be considering chartering planes and getting larger numbers out," Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the BBC.

The Foreign Office said some 30,000 Britons were in the country.

France has also warned against unnecessary travel to Egypt, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Paris was not yet considering evacuating its roughly 10,000 citizens in the country.

"We have the capacity to react" if need be, Valero said, adding that France was "permanently monitoring" the situation in Egypt and "completely mobilised" to assist French citizens.

In Australia, the Foreign Office upgraded its travel warning from "reconsider your need to travel" to "do not travel", counselling Australians against journeying to Egypt and advising those currently there to get out if possible.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said there were 870 Australians registered in Egypt but the real number was "likely to be in the thousands" and told anyone who could safely exit to strongly consider doing so.

China`s embassy in Cairo said on its website that the Foreign Ministry in Beijing had issued a "red" warning on Sunday, "requiring all Chinese citizens not to travel to Egypt”.

It urged Chinese nationals in Egypt to be careful of their safety and not to go outside unless necessary, adding that 300 Chinese nationals had been stranded due to cancelled flights.

Russia said it had no plans to immediately evacuate its about 40,000 citizens in Egypt.

"There is no reason to evacuate Russian tourists from Egypt for the moment," a spokesman for the country`s tourism agency, Oleg Moseyev, told the Ria Novosti news agency.

"People are continuing to leave for the country`s seaside resorts, while signing a note saying they are aware of the situation," he said, adding that only three tourists had asked their tour operators to cut short their trip.

A Belgian tour operator, Jetair, announced it was evacuating all its clients from Egypt but the country`s government said it would not organise a full-scale evacuation.

"For the moment, we don`t envisage urging Belgians living in Egypt to leave the country or organise evacuations," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, though a warning against travelling to Egypt was still in place.

Argentina urged its citizens on Sunday to avoid travel to Egypt "until the situation returns to normal”, according to a statement.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, January 31, 2011 - 08:36

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