Cairo ramps up evacuations; 18,000 seeking exitCAIRO — EgyptAir’s staff scuffled with frantic passengers, food supplies were dwindling, flight information was nonexistent — and some policemen even demanded substantial bribes before allowing foreigners to board their planes.
By: By Tarek El-Tablawy, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
CAIRO — EgyptAir’s staff scuffled with frantic passengers, food supplies were dwindling, flight information was nonexistent — and some policemen even demanded substantial bribes before allowing foreigners to board their planes.
Cairo Airport was in complete disarray, overwhelmed with over 18,000 passengers who flocked to the facility ahead of the 3 p.m. curfew, airport officials said Tuesday. Tourists detailed of a litany of woes, as dozens of planes arrived from all over the world to handle the surging exodus of foreigners and Egyptians amid growing anti-government protests in Cairo.
The United States ordered nonessential U.S. government personnel and their families to leave Egypt and Germany expanded its travel warning to the entire country, including the Red Sea resort towns.
Airlines from around the world arranged about 85 special flights to ferry people to their respective nations, with the largest number said to be Libyans, Kuwaitis, Saudis and other Arab nations. A smaller number were Europe-bound. In addition, at least 35 private jets and charter flights took off, with most destined for Europe.
The U.S. evacuated more than 1,200 Americans from Cairo on nine charter flights Monday and said it expected to fly out roughly 1,400 more in the coming days. Monday’s flights ferried Americans to Larnaca, Cyprus; Athens, Greece; and Istanbul, while flights Tuesday expanded to include Frankfurt, Germany.
The United States was also trying to arrange evacuation flights from the Egyptian cities of Aswan and Luxor.
National carrier EgyptAir saw only about 43 of 146 scheduled international and domestic flights take off before the carrier shut down service with the onset of the curfew. The company has been canceling about 75 percent of its flights for the past couple of days because it is unable to field the necessary crew amid the 17-hour emergency curfew imposed on the Egyptian capital.
Even having a ticket was no guarantee that tourists could get on a flight.
Five or six EgyptAir employees scuffled with passengers who were frantically trying to get seats on the few outbound flights it had available, airport officials said. There were no reports of injuries, but the incident spotlighted how days of political uncertainty, as well as massive crowds at the airport and little guarantee of securing a flight, had worn down peoples’ nerves.
“People holding tickets had difficulties getting on the plane, because the airport in Cairo is pure chaos,” Canadian tourist Tristin Hutton said after his plane landed at Germany’s Frankfurt airport.
“The terminals are full of panicking people. The ground staff is disappearing, and at the gate, just before entering, we all together had to collect $2,000 for a policeman at the door. ... He would not let us pass without paying,” added the 44-year-old.
Tour operators say they will fly home all their customers this week.