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Tour operators ready for fast Egypt evacuation

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Tour operators ready for fast Egypt evacuation
Soldiers fail to put down the protests in Cairo on Saturday. Photo: DPA
14:16 CET+01:00
German travel operators say they can get holidaymakers out of Egypt quickly if need be, while trips to Cairo have been cancelled and customers are being offered free re-booking and refunds.

“The travel operators are prepared for all eventualities. We could react immediately with the entire infrastructure,” Torsten Schäfer, spokesman for the travel operators' association said on Saturday.

Arabic television station Al Jazeera reported on Saturday that at least 95 people had been killed in the continuing demonstrations which have been held in big cities across the country against the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

Around 50,000 people were said to be on the streets of Cairo on Saturday, in a further day of growing demonstrations against Mubarak. Although many of the marches are largely peaceful, some of Mubarak's party offices have been burned and there have been reports of attacks on police stations as well as looting in some areas.

Mubarak, who has led the country since 1981 with a regime widely criticised for its lack of respect for human rights and dire poverty in which much of the population lives, has so far resisted calls for him to resign.

He dismissed his government on Friday, announcing on television the formation of a new one and promising to take steps towards greater democracy. And although he sent the army and tanks onto the streets of some cities, soldiers have not moved against the people.

The former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed el Baradai, returned to the country this week to join the opposition but has been put under house arrest.

He called for Mubarak to resign in an Al Jazeera interview, increasing speculation that he could be in the frame to replace the 82-year-old Mubarak who has until this week enjoyed the firm support of the American and other western governments.

TUI and Thomas Cook said on Saturday they would extend the offer of free cancellation to all customers who had holidays booked to Egypt up to February 2 and 3. All trips to the capital have been cancelled, but a TUI spokesman said that holidays on the Red Sea coast in the south east of the country were unaffected. He said the demonstrations in the country were not aimed against tourists.

Schäfer said the evacuation of tourists from Tunisia two weeks ago had shown how well-prepared the industry was to get people home when need be. But he said it was not expected to have to repeat the operation in Egypt. He said no customers had asked to leave early.

“The customers are all saying they are not seeing anything,” he said. “There in the seaside resorts in the Red Sea – in Sharm el Sheikh, in Hurghada and Marsa Alam – there are no demonstrations or conflicts.”

ITS, which operates holidays for REWE, Jahn Reisen and Tjaereborg have also cancelled all day trips to Cairo until and including February 4, they said on Saturday. Nile cruises would continue, but the final days planned for Cairo would be replaced with stays on the Red Sea.

REWE said it currently had 3,100 customers in Egypt. Germany's Foreign Ministry has warned against non-essential trips to Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, while those Germans in the country have been told to avoid demonstrations and to remain aware of local news.

DAPD/DPA/hc

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