Tourists besiege Cairo airport, but flights halt

January 30, 2011 00:46

CAIRO — Thousands of passengers were stranded at Cairo's airport on Saturday as flights were canceled or delayed, leaving them unable to leave because of a government-imposed curfew. Several Arab nations, meanwhile, moved to evacuate their citizens.

As Egypt's unrest neared its sixth day, the cancelations of flights and the arrival of several largely empty aircraft appeared to herald an ominous erosion of key tourism revenue for the country, hitting hard at its pocketbook even as protesters centered many of their grievances on the grinding poverty they endure daily.

Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan organized an additional 10 flights to evacuate their citizens, officials at Cairo International Airport said. Among those who left were families of diplomats.

Egypt's national carrier, meanwhile, was forced to cancel 15 scheduled flights because it was unable to secure the necessary crew and service personnel, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

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