U.S. Embassy in Cairo closed indefinitely


The U.S. Embassy in Egypt has been closed indefinitely, spokeswoman Elizabeth Coulton told CNN, although it is still offering 24-hour emergency assistance.

Embassy staff in Cairo have been overwhelmed by inquiries and the State Department now has a 24/7 task force and call centers, Assistant Secretary of State Janice L. Jacobs said. Travel updates are being provided on radio and TV, as well as on websites and via telephones, she said.

Starting Monday, charter flights will begin taking thousands of employees’ families and dependents, nonessential employees and private citizens out of Cairo.

Officials are looking at Istanbul, Turkey; Nicosia, Cyprus; and Athens, Greece, as possible destinations, although the list had not been finalized by Sunday afternoon, Jacobs told CNN.

American Laura Murphy, a passenger on a river cruise, told CNN that the ship’s captain anchored the boat in Luxor after being warned against docking at any of the stops on the Nile because those areas may be unsafe for tourists.

Murphy said two men with plane tickets to Cairo were stuck in Luxor because the plane never showed up.

“You cannot get away by water. You cannot take public transportation because it is unsafe and you cannot fly,” Murphy said. “I’m safe but trapped.”

U.S. officials are advising stranded travelers to stay put until help arrives.

“We right now are asking people to limit their movements as much as possible and wait for the additional information that we will have on the charter flights that will be leaving,” Jacobs said.

According to senior State Department officials, there are 380 government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and 760 family members living with them, CNN reported.

Al Arabiya TV broadcast an unconfirmed report that eight commercial aircraft from Saudi Arabia were on their way to evacuate Saudis from Egypt.

Meanwhile, 500 Jordanians, most of them students, arrived in Amman on Sunday, according to Mohammed Kayed, spokesman for the nation’s Foreign Ministry.

Royal Jordanian said on its website that it operated four scheduled and two extra flights between Amman and Cairo on Sunday “in order to transport Jordanian citizens who wish to come back to the kingdom, in light of the exceptional conditions prevailing in Eygpt.”

Turkey’s semiofficial news agency Anadolu Ajansi reported that two planes were headed to Egypt on Sunday to begin evacuating Turkish citizens. LAT