Amid chaos, U.S. citizens urged to evacuate Egypt immediately
The U.S. State Department has warned U.S. tourists and expatriates that they need to get out of Egypt now. The Associated Press reports that the State Department has secured chartered planes to get U.S. citizens out, but efforts to inform everyone of the Egypt evacuation have been only semi-successful because of the Egyptian government’s Internet lock down.
The challenges of evacuating Egypt
Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs told the AP that the first flights out of Egypt for U.S. expatriates and others are expected to arrive in Cyprus Monday. The process of evacuation is expected to take several days, and every moment is vital as protests against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continue to intensify. A crackdown on Facebook, Twitter and most Internet usage in general has made spreading word of Egypt’s evacuation days more difficult.
The Egyptian government’s freeze of online communications has sent ripples felt as far away as China, where censors have disabled searches including the word “Egypt,” in fear that the Egyptian civilian insurrection will inspire Chinese civilians to rebel against the Communist Party.
Cairo airport a nightmare
Cairo’s international airport has been completely overwhelmed by a flood of foreigners seeking escape from Egypt. Shouting, confusion and random fist-fights punctuate the drama within overcrowded terminals. Delayed or canceled flights are common, and staffing is woefully inadequate because 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfews make staffing almost impossible. EgyptAir had to shut down for 14 hours as a result, and an anonymous airline official told the AP that only 26 of 126 scheduled EgyptAir flights were operational as of Monday.
“It’s an absolute zoo; what a mess,” said Justine Khanzadian, a 23-year-old graduate student hoping for a flight out of Egypt.
Flight information available
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has appealed to Hosni Mubarak’s administration for lasting democracy. Before the press, Clinton stated that the U.S. rejects the Egyptian dictatorship.
“(We don’t) want a democracy for six months or a year that evolves into a military dictatorship or a so-called democracy that then leads to what we saw in Iran,” said Clinton.
Information on flights out of Egypt is available at via State Department and embassy websites, via egyptemergencyusc(at)state.gov, at 888-407-4747 (within U.S. and Canada) and outside at 202-501-4444 .