As Egypt Protests Flare, Foreigners Want Out
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
That was Corey Flintoff, speaking to us from Tahrir or Liberation Square in Cairo. Earlier, Corey was at Cairo's airport as foreigners are still trying to get out of the country, a country that seems poised for even greater turmoil.
COREY FLINTOFF: On the edge of the city, at Cairo's main airport, thousands of foreigners are still awaiting flights out of the country. Some have waited days as flights were cancelled and curfews kept them from reaching the airport. Hundreds are sleeping on terminal floors, temporary hostages to a piece of history in the making. Some slumped in the rows of waiting room seats. Others huddle along the wall or form little villages, mostly by nationality. Earlier, a 20-person French tour group circled baggage carts like a wagon train, sleeping under gold-toned space blankets. A Chinese group took over the Vodaphone sales booth and camped there with hotplates and tea kettles steaming.
Noorhan Shatta, an Egyptian Canadian, was trying to get to the Gulf state of Qatar. She says that she and her father were turned back from the airport three days ago because of the curfew. They came back and stayed overnight so they wouldn't miss another flight.
Ms. NOORHAN SHATTA: I mean I was coming here to transfer for university and I can't stay. I can't. It's too scary.
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Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
FLINTOFF: British embassy official Mandy Smith says her team has been working to get people out for the past five days.
Ms. MANDY SMITH (British Embassy official): Obviously it's difficult circumstances when people are lying in an airport with no food and no water. Some are quite upbeat because theyve only been here for four or five hours. And then when you see that have been here for, you know, three, four days, then it's difficult, you know?
FLINTOFF: Carol Mangrem is trying to get back home to Clarksdale, Mississippi. She was visiting her niece, who's a student in Cairo, but decided to leave two weeks early when they started to see street violence.
Ms. CAROL MANGREM: We saw a little bit. There was some in - across the river from our hotel. On Friday there was protests and police and tear gas.
FLINTOFF: The State Department's Erin Pelton was sent here from Washington to help with the evacuation of American citizens. Over the past few days, Pelton says the U.S. embassy helped more than 2,000 people to get to safe locations in Europe.
Ms. ERIN PELTON (U.S. State Department Official): Today we're prepared to evacuate up to 1,500 or so.
FLINTOFF: She says the embassy estimates that there are more than 50,000 Americans in Egypt, but only a fraction of them have asked for help in leaving. Her advice to Americans at home is to be patient and persistent.
MS. PELTON: For those who have family and loved ones here in Egypt trying to evacuate, we understand that communications are difficult. We appreciate the help that those family members in U.S. can provide to communicate directly with their loved ones, tell them how to get to the airport, what documents to bring.
FLINTOFF: As of now, Pelton says she and her team have several thousand more requests for help.
Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Cairo.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
So that's the situation at the airport. Let's also mention that attacks against journalists have continued in Cairo today. And that includes an attack against NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, who many of us have been listening to for days now from Cairo.
Lourdes, along with her interpreter and driver, were surrounded by a mob. The Egyptian military had to intervene. We're told she's fine.
Also attacked today was Ashraf Khalil, sometimes writes for Foreign Policy magazine. Many people heard him on our broadcast today shortly before he was attacked. He's okay, we're told.
The State Department is condemning these attacks, calling them part of a concerted campaign to intimidate journalists. And there's a new voice condemning the violence in Egypt. The newly appointed vice president is pledging to punish all those involved.
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