WASHINGTON – The United States plans to begin evacuating thousands of Americans from Egypt on Monday aboard government-arranged chartered planes, a senior official said.
“US citizens in Egypt should consider leaving as soon as they can do so,” Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs told reporters in a conference call.
Jacobs said the exact number of Americans wanting to leave Egypt was still unclear but that it would likely take several days to fly them all out.
Athens, Istanbul and Nicosia have been identified as possible “safe havens,” the consular affairs chief said, noting that there would be enough flights for all the Americans and their dependants who want to leave.
Her announcement came after six days of nationwide protest against Mubarak’s three-decade rule that have shaken Egypt and left at least 125 people dead as the veteran leader clings to power.
All those traveling aboard the US-arranged flights would be expected to pay the equivalent of a commercial fare and would need to make their own arrangements for traveling on from the European destinations.
Those with existing commercial tickets were advised to check with their airlines and tour operators before changing plans to go on the government charter flights.
Jacobs advised all those traveling to plan on arriving at the airport “well before curfew hours.”
A curfew slapped on Cairo, Alexandria and Suez on Friday was further extended on Sunday from 3:00 pm to 8:00 am.
“We will continue our work assisting US citizens around the clock. We are employing every communications medium — websites, email, call centers, radio and TV to get information out to US citizens on the ground in Egypt who are understandably worried,” Jacobs said.
She noted that the Egyptian government’s Internet shutdown “makes our job more difficult.”
The State Department said it was also sending additional consular personnel to Egypt and the European locations to assist US citizens and the “overwhelmed” embassy staff in Cairo.
Amid widespread looting, lawlessness and growing insecurity in the deadly protests, the United States was “encouraging Americans to limit their movements… to the extent that they can and certainly to avoid any location where there are protests taking place.”
The State Department earlier advised US citizens to avoid travel to Egypt and authorized the departure from the country for non-essential embassy staff and embassy dependents.
An advisory recommended that “US citizens avoid travel to Egypt due to ongoing political and social unrest.”