Cairo exodus as protests escalate

The first flights evacuating stranded Americans from Egypt took off on Monday amid escalating protests in the capital. The U.S. State Department said one aircraft carrying 42 Americans has landed in Cyprus and the second carrying 177 citizens had taken off for Athens, Greece.

The flights were able to depart before the 3pm curfew currently in effect in Egypt.

The British Foreign Office said the majority of tourists and expats who wanted to leave Egypt have managed to depart.

Difficulties at the airport had eased but flight disruption was continuing, it warned.

The Foreign Office has warned against all non-essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Luxor.

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It also recommended that British nationals without a “pressing need” to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez should leave. Meanwhile tourists in Luxor were advised to stay indoors.

An estimated 100 people have been killed during the past week during protests against the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo again on Monday, with a general strike and huge march planned on Tuesday. Thousands have also demonstrated in Alexandria, Mansoura, Damanhour and Suez.

The FCO said there were an estimated 20,000 British tourists in Egypt, the majority of them in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt described as being “calm”. Another 10,000 Britons are thought to be living or working in Egypt.

A curfew is in force between of 1500 and 0800, although correspondents report that it is being widely ignored.

Egypt Air said it was cancelling all domestic and international flights between the curfew hours.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I have spoken to President Mubarak and had a conversation with President Obama last night, and we were very much agreed that we want the response of the Egyptian government to be that there needs to be a proper orderly transition to a more democratic situation, where there are greater rights, greater freedoms, better rule of law and that sort of reform - to show to people in Egypt that their concerns and their aspirations are being listened to.”

Thomson and First Choice have flown a plane from the UK to Egypt to bring back customers from Aswan who were scheduled to return anyway. He added: “Sharm el-Sheik is still holidaying.”