Indians stranded as chaos rules Cairo airport


Cairo, Jan 30 (PTI) Amid a massive unrest in Egypt dueto protests against President Hosni Mubarak, hundreds ofIndian passengers were stranded at Cairo''s airport today asflights were canceled or delayed, leaving them unable to leavebecause of a government-imposed curfew in the capital.

Egypt was in the grip of increasing lawlessness todayas gangs of armed men helped free thousands of prisoners andlooters rampaged malls, banks and jewellery stores, even asmany armymen doffed uniforms to join the uprising againstMubarak''s 30-year rule that has claimed at least 150 lives insix days.

In the face of mayhem and cancelled flights, hundredsof Indian tourists and businessmen struck at the Cairo airportwere still waiting to be rescued by the Indian Government.

Many of the passengers remained stranded at theairport, unable to leave because of the curfew as well asfears of the widespread looting reported across the capital.

"It is absolutely chaotic at the moment and no oneknows what is going on, as there are thousands of peopleoutside the terminal and there is no arrangement of food,"said Indian national Vineet Ahuja, who is stranded with hisfamily at the Cairo airport.

"And we cannot even blame anyone," he added.

Ahuja said he chose not to step out of the airportbecause of stories narrated by those who dared to do so.

"A couple of Indians who stepped out of the airporthad horrifying stories to narrate, with tanks out on streets,buildings on fire and army every where, so we are better inhere," Ahuja told an Indian news channel.

"It looks terrible at the moment and we do not knowwhat to do" he said.

A special Air India aircraft is flying over 300Indians to Mumbai, Indian Ambassador R Swaminathan said. Theywill reach Mumbai tomorrow morning, he said.

The Indian mission is making arrangements for thosewishing to return home.

"There are lot of rumours that there is a charteredflight that is going to take off at nine in the night today.

We were told to come to terminal 1 to get that flight, but itslooking worse now than where we were earlier," Ahuja said.

When asked about the help they were getting fromauthorities, Ahuja said: "We have no balance left in ourmobile phones and in this situation how can we contactsomeone".

"We are told that there is someone called Harish whowill be contacting us but we have no idea who he is," headded.

Meanwhile, Egypt''s national carrier was forced tocancel 15 scheduled flights because it was unable to securethe necessary crew and service personnel, reports said.

Several airlines, including Germany''s Lufthansa andAir Berlin, US carrier Delta Air Lines and Poland''s LOTcanceled flights and some were weighing how long to extendthose cancellations.

An embattled Mubarak, 82, visited the militaryheadquarters and held hectic parleys with top commanders, aday after he showed first signs of handing over power bynaming intelligence chief and his close confidant OmarSuleiman as Vice President.

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