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Governments Move to Fly Nationals out of Egypt

Monday, 31 Jan 2011 07:17 AM

 

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(For main story on Egypt: nLDE70U00B)

* Chartered Chinese, Japanese aircraft bring out nationals

* U.S., Turkey offer to evacuate citizens

* Some foreign companies fly out expatriate staff

* Russian, German tourists on Red Sea continue holidays

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Governments took steps on Monday to whisk their nationals out of Egypt on chartered or scheduled aircraft as demonstrators pressed their mass campaign to topple President Hosni Mubarak.

More than 100 people have died in six days of unrest aimed at ending Mubarak's 30-year-old rule, with the outcome appearing to depend greatly on whatever steps are to be taken by the military. Protesters called for a general strike on Monday.

Two Chinese airlines, Air China and Hainan Air, said they would each send a chartered flight to Cairo on Monday to bring home Chinese citizens. There were at least 500 Chinese nationals stuck at Cairo's international airport, a Chinese consular official in Cairo told Reuters by telephone.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said chartered aircraft would fly out about 500 citizens stranded at Cairo airport, to Rome. But the exact number was unclear as Kyodo news agency said 335 evacuees had boarded an Egyptair flight to Japan overnight.

The United States and Turkey offered to evacuate their nationals and major airlines, including Lufthansa and Air India, pledged to send more planes to Cairo and Alexandria.

The Greek foreign ministry said at least two Greek military aircraft were on standby. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dispatched a plane to Egypt to pick up Iraqi citizens.

Germany's foreign ministry issued a travel warning late on Sunday -- singling out hotspots Cairo, Alexandria and Suez -- though it described the situation at Red Sea tourist destinations as calm for the moment.

Other countries advised their citizens to leave Egypt or avoid traveling to major cities, although Russian and German tourists at Red Sea resorts have made no move to cut short their holidays.

Britain recommended its citizens leave the three centres "where it is safe to do so." The U.S. State Department moved to reduce diplomatic staff in Egypt, authorising the voluntary departure of diplomats and nonessential workers.

Some European and Asian companies started evacuating staff.

Witnesses reported scenes of chaos at Cairo Airport, with many people, including Egyptians, scrambling to get on a decreasing number of operational flights.

U.S.-based Delta Air Lines Inc, for instance, said on Friday it was suspending its service into Cairo indefinitely.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs said U.S.-government sponsored flights would be leaving Cairo on Monday.

"Those will begin tomorrow and then they will be ongoing until we are able to get all Americans who are not able to get out via commercial airlines," she told CNN.

KEY TOURIST INDUSTRY

Egypt's tourism industry, which provides about one in eight jobs in a country beset by high unemployment, took a hit in 1997 when gunmen killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an ancient temple in Luxor, and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But decreases in tourist levels have previously been temporary, and the trend has been broadly upward for a decade.

Two Japanese firms shut down operations -- Nissan Motor Co. at a small plant in Giza, near the capital, and a subsidiary in the Cairo suburbs of drugmaker Otsuka Holdings .

Some Korean companies pulled back their nationals, though only a handful of Koreans were working in the country.

Oil company Royal Dutch Shell planned to evacuate about 60 families of its international staff from Egypt as a safety measure, a source close to the company told Reuters.

In Cairo's residential area, two buses stood outside the offices of the Italian oil company ENI to evacuate families. One foreign employee said his wife and three children would go but he would stay. There was no immediate comment from ENI.

"It's not an issue during the day, it's at night when we don't know what will happen," the employee said.

The Philippines foreign ministry readied a 25 million pesos ($567,000) standby emergency fund for the evacuation of about 6,600 Filipinos if necessary, while Thailand advised some 2,600 Thais in the country to stay put.

"They have been asked to stay indoors with food and water in case of an emergency," Thai ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said, adding there was no need for an evacuation at this point.

The wealthy Asian sultanate of Brunei moved its 86 nationals in the country -- students and their families -- into its Cairo embassy, the Brunei embassy to the Borneo Bulletin newspaper.

In Baku, an Azeri Foreign Ministry spokesman said an accountant at the Azeri Embassy was killed in street clashes late on Saturday on his way home from work. Plans called for the evacuation of about 70 Azeris studying in Egypt.

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 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 reportted no increase in cancellations and rebookings to the Red Sea coast and Thomas Cook flew in a fresh batch of tourists from Germany on Sunday.

But Belgian travel agency Jetair, owned by TUI Travel, said on its website it was working on an evacuation plan due to start on Monday. Belgian media said about 1,700 tourists were involved. The company was not immediately available for comment. ($1=44.10 Philippine Peso) (Additional reporting by international bureaux; Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani) (Asia desk, Singapore ronald.popeski@thomsonreuters.com +65 6870 3815)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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