Countries evacuate citizens as Egypt crisis worsens

Countries around the globe stepped up evacuation of foreign tourists and workers from Egypt Monday as anti-government protestors called for further pressure to make beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak quit.

In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs said at least 2,400 Americans in Egypt have asked US officials for help in leaving as the first 42 landed in Cyprus.

"We want to make sure that anyone who needs our help is getting that, and so, yes, I do expect those numbers to go up over the next few days," she said.

"We are encouraging Americans who want to take advantage of these charter flights to go to the airport, but I should say that people should be prepared for a very long wait," she added.

Chaotic scenes have been reported at Cairo airport with authorities struggling to cope with an influx of thousands of departing passengers.

Turkey said it had brought 1,144 of its citizens home aboard five specially chartered aircraft of Turkish Airlines from Cairo and Alexandria on Sunday night, in addition to 330 flown back at the weekend.

Indonesia ordered its citizens to leave strife-torn Egypt and promised to dispatch military aircraft to bring them home.

More than 6,000 Indonesians are believed to reside in Egypt.

Japan said Monday it was flying emergency charter planes to evacuate hundreds of Japanese, some of whom had already left while many others were stranded at Cairo airport.

Thai Airways planned a special flight to Cairo to repatriate Thai tourists, a statement said, but added there were problems to overcome such as ground servicing and refuelling as it had no regular services to the Egyptian capital.

Air India chartered a plane to bring back 320 Indians and had decided to divert another plane from its regular Mumbai-Jeddah flight to pick up more, Indians, airport sources told the Press Trust of India news agency.

While tour operators in many countries were planning to bring clients on package tours back earlier than scheduled and had cancelled further excursions they said the situation in the main beach resorts on the Red Sea remained calm.

Foreign companies also began bringing home expatriate employees and their families.

France Telecom said Monday it was following the example of other French groups, cement company Lafarge and bank Credit Agricole, and repatriating some 20 people.

Lafarge, which employs 70 expatriates in Egypt, said it was halting cement production in the country, while Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moeller-Maersk also said it was suspending activities in Egypt.

In Germany wholesale distributor Metro said it had brought back 20-30 employees, adding that its two hypermarkets in Cairo had been looted and were closed.

Energy group RWE said it had flown out some 90 people and vehicle maker Daimler "fewer than 50."

Russian companies Lukoil and Novatek were also evacuating staff, but Moscow has given no order for some 40,000 tourists to come home and many were happy to stay on the beach, agencies said.

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

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

"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.

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.