Chaos at Cairo airport

2011-02-01 10:38
Cairo - Amid scenes of chaos at Cairo's international airport, thousands of foreigners fled the unrest in Egypt, boarding special flights home or to nearby Mediterranean airports.

As countries around the world scrambled to send in planes to fly their citizens out on Monday, nerves and shouting and shoving matches erupted as passengers crammed into Cairo airport's new Terminal 3 seeking a flight home.

"It's an absolute zoo, what a mess," said Justine Khanzadian, 23, a graduate student from the American University of Cairo. "I decided to leave because of the protests, the government here is just not stable enough to stay."

Making matters worse, check-in counters were poorly staffed because many EgyptAir employees had been unable to get to work due to a 15:00-to-08:00 curfew and traffic breakdowns across the Egyptian capital.

The US State Department said it has evacuated more than 1 200 Americans aboard government-chartered planes and expects to fly out roughly 1 400 more in the coming days.

State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley said that by the end of Monday six planes will have flown nine flights ferrying US citizens from Cairo to Larnaca, Cyprus; Athens, Greece; and Istanbul, Turkey.

Confusion

New York-based Pamela Huyser, who had travelled to Egypt for a conference, arrived in Larnaca, late on Monday. She described the violent scene she witnessed from her ninth-floor hotel balcony in Cairo.

"You cannot even believe what we saw," she said. "We saw people looting, we saw gunfire, people shooting other people. A lot of people working in our hotel, they came out with sticks and knives and bats and they protected us from getting looted."

Earlier, a US military plane landed in Lanarca with 42 people - mostly staff at US embassies in Africa and elsewhere who had also travelled to Egypt for a conference.

Additional flights were also being arranged in Turkey and neighbour Greece, where authorities announced plans to increase coast guard patrols to deter immigrants from troubled north African countries from reaching the European Union member.

Greek oil worker Markos Loukogiannakis, who arrived in Athens on a flight carrying 181 passengers including 65 US citizens, said confusion reigned at Cairo airport and travellers had to negotiate a string of checkpoints just to get there.

"In a 22km route from our suburb to the airport we had to get through 19 checkpoints, including nine manned by civilians," he said. "There were lots of people gathering at the airport and it was very difficult to get in."

Chaotic

He said security had deteriorated sharply over the past three days in Cairo after police withdrew from the streets.

In Germany, a special Lufthansa plane arrived in Frankfurt late on Monday night with evacuees from Cairo.

Among the passengers was Guenther Kremer from Troisdorf in western Germany. He told reporters that the situation in Cairo was "chaotic".

"The big problem was, that one didn't have any information, one didn't know what is going to happen the next day - am I getting out or not," he said.

"We had to wait for three days to fly out - Egypt Air had cancelled, so we were quite happy when Lufthansa showed up today and got us out."

In a geopolitical shift, even Iraq decided it would evacuate its citizens, sending three planes to Egypt - including the prime minister's plane - to bring home for free those who wish to return. Thousands of Iraqis had once fled to Egypt to escape the violence in their own country.

About 800 Iraqis had left Cairo by Monday afternoon, said Capt Mohammed al-Moussawi, a crew member for the prime minister's plane. He said the flights would continue until all those who wished to return had done so.

Panicking people

Nearly 320 Indian nationals arrived in Mumbai on a special Air India flight and another 275 were expected later. An Azerbaijan flight carrying 103 people and the body of an Azeri Embassy accountant killed in the unrest arrived in Baku, and Turkey sent five planes to Cairo and Alexandria, evacuating 1 548 Turkish nationals.

Air Canada said a flight chartered by the Canadian government landed in Frankfurt, Germany, on Monday, carrying 174 Canadians plus 36 other foreigners, mostly Americans and Australians. A second Canadian-chartered flight was due to depart from Cairo on Tuesday.

Tristin Hutton, a bush pilot from Fort Francis, Ontario, who had been visiting his sister at the Canadian Embassy in Cairo, described a chaotic scene at the Cairo airport.

"People holding tickets had difficulties getting on the plane, because the airport in Cairo is pure chaos," the 44-year-old said.

"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 said. "He would not let us pass without paying."

Big question

Indonesia was sending a plane to Cairo to start evacuating some 6 150 Indonesians - mostly students and workers - and SAS Denmark was flying home some 60 Danes.

China sent four planes to help pick up an estimated 500 Chinese stranded in Cairo and warned citizens not travel to Egypt.

That echoed earlier warnings from Britain, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and the Czech Republic, which all advised against all nonessential travel to Egypt. Many European tour companies canceled trips to Egypt until Feb. 23, while others left the cancellations open until further notice.

One big question was what to do with the tens of thousands of tourists in other parts of Egypt. Tour operators say they will fly home all their customers this week when their holidays end, or on extra flights, stressing there has not been any unrest in Red Sea resort cities like Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheik. Still, food shortages were starting to be felt at some Egyptian resorts and some restaurants were refusing to serve foreigners.

All major German tour operators _ among them TUI AG and Thomas Cook's German subsidiary _ canceled day trips to Cairo and Luxor.

Britain estimated there were 30 000 UK tourists and long-term residents in Egypt but said it had no plans to evacuate them. Foreign Secretary William Hague warned people against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez.

The Danish company shipping company AP Moller-Maersk A/S chartered a plane to pick up relatives of its Danish employees in Egypt. The company said there were no terminal operations in Egypt on Monday and the Maersk Line, Safmarine and Damco offices were closed.

Air France canceled its daily flight from Paris to Cairo on Monday and planned to increase its capacity Tuesday by an extra 200 seats.

Portugal sent a C-130 military transport plane to evacuate its citizens. Greece was sending three C-130 military transport planes to Alexandria on Tuesday and the Polish airline LOT was flying to Cairo.


- AP
Read more on:    egypt  |  north africa  |  travel
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

3 sports games you have to watch this weekend

Whether it’s date night or a braai with buddies, plan around these three exciting sporting games!

 
 

Men24.com

Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong focus on social interaction and connecting with your friends. You may have the need to expand and connect with a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.