LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign countries stepped up attempts to evacuate their nationals from Egypt on Tuesday as at least one million anti-government protesters rallied across the country calling for President Hosni Mubarak step down.
The United States ordered all non-emergency embassy and government staff to leave, Germany warned its citizens for the first time to avoid the Red Sea tourist areas and Britain said it would send a plane to repatriate people stuck in Cairo.
Travel companies cancelled holidays and decided to fly out tourists on the eighth and biggest day of protests.
The U.S. State Department said it would offer help to Americans who wanted to leave Egypt, but noted “flights may be disrupted and transport to the airport may be disrupted due to the protests”.
The German Foreign Ministry issued an urgent warning against travelling to Egypt and extended the advisory to Red Sea areas.
“The Foreign Ministry urgently advises against travelling anywhere in Egypt,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
TUI’s UK operators, Thomson and First Choice, said they had decided to repatriate 950 customers in Luxor, but that it was business as usual in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
Tourism is one of Egypt’s main sources of foreign revenue, accounting for more than 11 percent of GDP, and provides many jobs in a country with high unemployment. In 2009, 12.5 million tourists visited Egypt, bringing revenue of $10.8 billion.
Britain said it would send a chartered Boeing 757, capable of carrying 200 passengers, to Cairo on Wednesday to bring back Britons who wish to leave.
“We have judged it prudent to provide this additional capability. We are not taking any chances,” a British Foreign Office spokesman said.
Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament he would send more flights if necessary, although he expected most people who wanted to leave to take regular commercial flights.
Nearly 500 Chinese nationals left Cairo on Tuesday, another two aircraft were heading to the capital to pick up more Chinese citizens and one jet was flying to Luxor to pick up about 220 Hong Kong residents.
“The Chinese government takes very seriously the safety of Chinese nationals in Egypt,” the Foreign Ministry said. Beijing has already ordered travel agents to suspend tours.
Taiwan and Japan were using charter and commercial flights to bring its citizens back. Russia has urged its citizens not to travel to Egypt and advised those already in the country to head home.
“We emphatically urge citizens to heed the Foreign Ministry’s recommendation and refrain from trips to Egypt,” the ministry said. About 40,000 Russians are estimated to be on holiday in Egypt, a favourite Russian tourist destination. (Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin, Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo and Victoria Bryan in London, Writing by Peter Griffiths and Daniel Magnowski, Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)