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Evacuations ramp up as Egypt protests continue

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Exodus from Egypt
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: U.S. State Department says it will expand evacuations to Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan
  • The United States hopes to evacuate 900 Americans on Monday
  • First flight of Americans evacuated from Egypt landed in Cyprus Monday afternoon
  • Canada, Australia, Thailand, Turkey, India and Israel have also evacuated citizens

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Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Hundreds of evacuees streamed out of Egypt aboard aircraft Monday, seeking to escape the continued unrest across the country.

The United States said it expected to fly out 1,000 people Monday in an around-the-clock airlift to Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. State Department said 500 Americans had been evacuated aboard five flights.

The government said it hoped to fly out another 1,000 people on Tuesday and planned to expand its evacuation effort beyond Cairo to reach stranded U.S. citizens in Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan.

The State Department told Americans on Monday that they should bring food, water and other necessities -- including patience -- to the airport if they hope to catch a flight.

"People should be prepared for a very long wait," said Janice Jacobs, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.

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The U.S. flights were part of a broadening effort by governments around the world to transport their citizens out of Egypt, where widespread demonstrations against the government have led to clashes between protesters and police, looting, and other dangers.

Canada, Australia, India, Israel and Thailand were among the nations sending planes to evacuate citizens.

The first plane out was a Cyprus-bound flight with 42 people aboard, the government said. It landed Monday afternoon.

Despite earlier reports that flights would be subject to Egypt's 3 p.m. curfew, the State Department said flights would depart around the clock.

About 52,000 Americans are believed to be in Egypt. Of those, more than 2,600 have asked to be evacuated, the State Department said. But Jacobs expected those numbers would rise as the unrest continues.

The State Department said Americans seeking flights out of the country should make their way to Cairo International Airport's HAJ Terminal 4, where U.S. government officials will arrange charter travel out of the country.

Stefanos Stefanou, a spokesman for the Cyprus government, said shortly after the first U.S. flight landed at 2:30 p.m. that his country was ready to help any country trying to get its citizens out of Egypt.

Those Americans seeking evacuation will be asked to sign documents promising they will reimburse the government for the flights, the State Department said.

Exact costs hadn't been determined, but a State Department official said the cost should be comparable to a one-way commercial flight from Egypt to the evacuation points. Citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel from there, according to the government.

Although Jacobs said the U.S. government has not learned of any Americans being targeted or hurt in the protests, she said U.S. citizens should nevertheless limit their movements and avoid protests if they don't plan on leaving the country.

Other countries were taking steps to evacuate their citizens, as well.

Canada recommended its 6,000 citizens in Egypt leave and expected to begin flying them out aboard charter flights on Monday.

India sent a flight Monday, according to that country's government.

Israel's EL AL sent two airplanes to retrieve that nation's citizens, returning on Monday, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Thai Airways said Monday that it was preparing a special flight to Cairo to bring stranded Thais home at the request of the country's government.

Australia said it will provide a flight on Wednesday.

Mexico's government also advised its citizens to leave the country.

Russian officials said they have made plans for an evacuation, but aren't yet moving to implement them, the state-run Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing the head of the consular department of the Russian embassy in Egypt, Shamil Utoyev.

CNN's Elise Labott, Shira Medding, Paula Newton and Paul Malaos contributed to this report.

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