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Out of Egypt: Governments bring citizens away from uprising

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Americans report trouble getting to the airport because of road closures
  • Closures were in place because of massive demonstrations
  • The U.S. State Department has brought 1,600 Americans out of Egypt

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- As Egypt's president for the last 30 years announced he won't stand for re-election and hundreds of thousands of Egyptians filled streets and squares to demand his resignation, countries around the world scrambled to get their citizens out of the north African nation.

President Hosni Mubarak said Tuesday he would remain in office until presidential elections in September, but many protesters said that wasn't enough.

The protesters proclaimed Tuesday the day for a "march of millions" in Cairo, Alexandria, and other areas, and for the most part, the marches went off peacefully. But uncertainty over what could happen next meant a steady stream of foreigners leaving the land of the pharaohs.

The U.S. State Department said 1,600 Americans had been evacuated, and the British carrier BMI was organizing an extra flight to get 124 passengers out Tuesday. Other countries including China, India, Thailand and Australia were attempting to get stranded citizens out of Egypt.

The State Department said that some Americans had difficulty getting to Cairo's airport because of road closures related to the demonstrations. Three U.S.-chartered planes carried 400 passengers to Istanbul and Athens Tuesday, and a fourth plane was slated to take another 60 out of the Egypt.

Commercial flights in and out of Cairo operated only during non-curfew hours, the government said, although evacuations were allow to proceed around the clock, and the Alexandria airports were open. The department said 3,000 Americans so far had contacted the embassy asking to be evacuated.

Also Tuesday, the State Department ordered all non-emergency government personnel and family members to leave Egypt.

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.

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.

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 Assistant Secretary of State Janice 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.

But other countries announced they were not calling for evacuations: South Africa, for example, said it would help its citizens get out if they wanted to leave but that it would not provide special flights.

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