Britons returning from Cairo speak of their relief


Britons arriving back from Cairo have spoken of their “frightening” experiences and relief to be home from the protest-hit Egyptian capital.

David Lewis, from Manchester, spent two days at Cairo airport and said it was “absolute chaos” there.

The Foreign Office upgraded its travel advice on Sunday, telling UK nationals in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez to leave if it was safe for them to do so.

But it is not currently organising a formal evacuation.

Mr Lewis, who had been visiting his niece but cut his holiday short, said they were “really pleased to be home” and “really lucky” to get a ticket.

He said the situation was “absolutely frightening” and seemed to be getting worse.

“It did not take us long to realise it was not safe to be out on the streets,” he said. “We were lying in bed at night hearing shots, looking out of the window seeing groups of men with sticks in their hands trying to protect their homes.”

His niece, Carol Lewis, said she had been happily working as a teacher in Egypt for five months but it had “changed overnight” from Tuesday, when the anti-government protests began.

Geoff and Heather Booth, from Dronfield, Derbyshire, whose tour was cut to just two days because of the unrest, said they were not in the worst part but it was still “quite bad”.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was concerned by the number of Britons trying to leave from Cairo airport.

Flights were coming in and out but a lack of staff meant it was not functioning properly, he said.

The welfare of British nationals was his top priority, he added, and he had sent extra consular staff to Cairo airport.

The UK Foreign Office (FCO) is warning against all non-essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Luxor.

It also recommends that British nationals without a “pressing need” to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez should leave.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the BBC: “We do want people to take the opportunity if they are able to leave… but as yet the situation has not reached the stage where we would necessarily be considering chartering planes and getting larger numbers out.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague: “We keep our travel advice under careful and constant review”

The FCO says arrangements are being made for the spouses and children of British embassy staff in Cairo to leave the country on ordinary commercial flights.

The US embassy in Cairo is telling Americans to consider leaving the country as soon as possible and will begin evacuation flights on Monday.

Most of the 20,000 UK tourists in Egypt are in Red Sea resorts, which the FCO considers to be safe.

Sean Tipton, from travel body Abta, said UK tourists required to travel to Luxor, which is a popular start and end point for Nile cruises, were “being taken to the cruise very quickly and got out of the place very quickly”.

In other travel news:

* British Midland International (BMI) said it would operate flights between Heathrow and Cairo on Monday but would change the times to operate outside the curfew. Its flights to Cairo were cancelled on Sunday
* British Airways and Egyptair have also altered their schedules because of the curfew
* Easyjet said it was operating a normal schedule to Egypt but offering passengers the chance to either rebook, or cancel and receive a voucher valid for future travel for up to a year
* Tui, the parent company of Thompson and First Choice, says it has no customers in Cairo. It has cancelled a flight to Aswan on Monday and several to Luxor on Tuesday and Wednesday. All excursions to Cairo and from Luxor were also scrapped, but flights to Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam were not affected
* Other travel companies have cancelled excursions from Red Sea resorts to Cairo and ancient Egyptian sites in Giza and Luxor

Demonstrations have entered a seventh day in Egypt, with protesters calling for an end to the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

Clashes are reported to have left at least 100 people dead since rallies began, with thousands more injured.

Meanwhile PM David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have called for an “orderly transition” of government.

After discussing the crisis on Sunday, the two leaders said the north African country needed a comprehensive process of political reform.

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