Foreign governments begin evacuating citizens from Egypt

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Rania

Cairo, Jan 30 (PTI) India sent a special aircraft toCairo to airlift its citizens stranded in Egypt, as a host ofother countries asked their citizens to avoid travelling tothe country where unprecedented anti-government protestsentered their sixth day.

Besides India, Turkey and Azerbaijan too sent specialplanes to bring their nationals out of Egypt while the US,Switzerland and South Korea issued travel alerts advisingtheir citizens in the country to leave and exercise caution.

Australia, Britain, China and France too cautionedtheir citizens from travelling to the country.

A special Air India aircraft was on its way fromMumbai to Cairo via Dubai while another is on standby in theSaudi city of Jeddah, waiting to be pressed into service.

Abhay Pathak, the Air India regional manager, Gulf,West Asia and Africa, told PTI in Dubai that the 747 Boeingaircraft, with a capacity of 423, was on its way to Cairo.

"We have already provisioned all passengers at Cairoairport. I am told 300-odd family members of Indian embassyare ready to board the flight. Another 300 Tata Group workersand their families are waiting to be evacuated," he said.

Pathak said he is also seeking permission to operateanother flight for tomorrow morning. "The aircraft, which hasa capacity to seat 240 seats, is scheduled to depart at 11a.m. and Indians still stranded have been asked to be at theairport (Cairo) by 10 a.m," he said.

Hundreds of Indians and other nationals were strandedat Cairo''s airport today as flights were canceled or delayed,leaving them unable to leave because of a government-imposedcurfew in the capital.

Earlier in the day, the South Korean Embassy in Egyptalso asked its citizens to leave the country because of theongoing protests.

A travel alert issued by the US State Departmentamidst growing protest by pro-democracy forces in the country,asked its citizens to avoid travelling to Egypt and authorisedvoluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employeesof its mission.

"US citizens currently in Egypt should considerleaving as soon as they can safely do so," it said.

Britain asked its nationals to leave flashpointEgyptian cities, and the British Foreign Office, which put thenumber of Britons in the country at 30,000, advised againsttravel to Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Luxor.

France too warned against all but essential travel toEgypt, but it was not yet planning to launch an evacuation.

Mass protests against Hosni Mubarak entered a sixthday today, and continued unabated even after the Presidentsacked his cabinet and appointed a Vice President, the firstever in his 30 years of rule.

The unrest has so far claimed 150 lives in majorEgyptian cities, and looting and arson has been witnessed insome places.

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