For many foreigners fleeing Egypt, a chaotic and tense exit
More than 1,800 Americans have evacuated from Egypt and another 167 were reportedly waiting to leave Cairo's airport today as violent clashes continued.
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The United Nations today began evacuating employees, two days after the US State Department ordered the evacuation of all nonessential government personnel. A lack of commercial flights has spurred governments to fly their citizens out on charter flights, as the US has done.Skip to next paragraph
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State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said this week the evacuation process is under control and being conducted in an “orderly manner.”
"We’ll have flights [Thursday] and we’ll continue to assess the need for charter flights on Friday," he said mid-week. "We do understand that many Americans have left Egypt through available commercial means. But certainly, the demand for seats to leave Egypt has subsided."
Residents wield guns, nunchucks
That doesn't sound quite accurate to Professor Martin, who described a convoluted and disorganized evacuation process.
Martin, who has lived in Cairo for a year and a half, said he and his wife decided to evacuate on Jan. 29, when they began hearing gunfire in their neighborhood almost an hour from downtown Cairo. After the upscale neighborhood's private security disappeared, residents began arming themselves with guns, swords, and even nunchucks. A call over the loudspeakers of a nearby mosque urged young men to defend their homes from looters.
Martin and his wife were fortunate to get out. Two friends from Puerto Rico were still stuck in Cairo as of Wednesday. They had heard nothing from the embassy or their employer (also the American University in Cairo) on how to evacuate, but seemed to be among many left in the dark.
Ms. Graves ended up staying in Cairo after speaking with a government official, who could not guarantee a ticket would cost less than $10,000. While Martin wasn't quoted a flight cost, he and his wife signed promissory notes confirming that they would pay back the US government when they regained access to their bank accounts.
American University in Cairo is scheduled to resume classes Feb. 13, although Martin says he doesn’t foresee the situation calming down in time for that to happen.
“I honestly didn’t [expect this],” he says. “The Mubarak machine has been so good at crushing these kinds of activities in the past.”