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Canadian evacuation flights from Egypt scheduled

Jan. 31, 2011, Ottawa - Canada has sent two airliners into the chaos of Cairo International Airport to begin evacuating hundreds of Canadians eager to leave the unrest in Egypt.


January 31, 2011
By The Canadian Press

Ottawa said the first two evacuation flights are flying to Frankfurt, scheduled to arrive in the Germany city later today and early tomorrow morning.

Canadians hoping to board those flights, however, must get through heavy traffic in Cairo and thousands of people from other countries who also want to leave.

Amid frayed nerves, shouting matches erupted and some passengers even had a fist fight as large crowds gathered at Cairo airport's new Terminal 3 seeking a flight home.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said an Air Canada flight was scheduled to depart Cairo International Airport at around 4 p.m. local time.

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The plane, which can hold 335 people, is expected to arrive in Frankfurt 10 p.m. local time. (4 p.m. ET).

Another flight, chartered through Skylink Travel and capable of carrying 234 people, is supposed to depart Cairo at 7 p.m., flying via Amman to Frankfurt. Arrival in Frankfurt is set for 3 a.m. Tuesday local time (9 p.m. ET).

The flights come after Canada announced Sunday that it is airlifting its citizens from Egypt as anti-government protests rock the North African country, threatening to topple its leadership.

In a statement today, Cannon said Canada is also exploring ways to evacuate Canadians outside Cairo.

"The government is looking for options for flights to evacuate Canadians from cities other than Cairo. Individuals located outside of Cairo are advised not to try to make their way to Cairo, for safety reasons,'' he said.

"The Government of Canada's priority is the safety of Canadian citizens in Egypt.''

Priority on the evacuation flights will be given to "people holding a Canadian passport and their immediate family, defined as a spouse and children,'' Cannon said.

"Immediate family members who are not Canadian citizens must provide documentation for entry into the destination country and proof of family relationship.

"Passengers will be required to sign an undertaking with the Government of Canada agreeing to repay the costs related to evacuation. It should be noted that only one piece of luggage will be allowed per passenger.''

At a news conference on Sunday, Cannon said there had been no reports of Canadians injured or killed in the Egyptian protests. "However, at this time the government is recommending that Canadians leave Egypt.''

There are some 6,500 Canadians in Egypt, and of these about 1,200 are registered with the Canadian Embassy. As many as 800 were expected to board planes on Monday. The flights to Europe will continue as long as necessary, Cannon said.

Canadians in Egypt who want to leave are asked to phone Canada's embassy in Cairo at 20 2 2791 8700 or call collect to the Foreign Affairs emergency operations centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885. Relatives in Canada can contact the centre toll-free by dialling 1-800-606-5499, or by sending an email to sos@international.gc.ca.