U.S. Orders Non-Essential Personnel Out Of Egypt

Amid mounting protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, the United States government has ordered all non-essential personnel to exit from Egypt.

The State Department says it will continue to facilitate the evacuation of U.S. citizens who do not already have travel plans, but noted "flights may be disrupted and transport to the airport may be disrupted due to the protests."

In a statement, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs says hundred of U.S. citizens have already been evacuated, and the agency expects "many more to fly out tomorrow and the coming days." Many U.S. citizens are being sent to safe havens in Europe, where officers are helping to provide lodging and onward travel plans.

"So far, more than 2,500 citizens have contacted us to express their desire to be evacuated," says Jacobs.

As thousands of tourists and expatriates attempt to leave the country, Cairo's airport is reportedly a chaotic scene. Shouting matches and even fistfights have broken out as travelers try to get out of the country.

"It's an absolute zoo, what a mess," said Justine Khanzadian, 23, a graduate student from the American University of Cairo who was among those waiting at the airport for hours to leave Egypt.

Winter is high season for travel to Egypt, but even before the State Department issued their decree the violent protests have caused tour operators to cancel trips to the capital city and pull cruises from Egyptian ports.

Most tour operators are allowing travelers to reschedule trips for future dates without penalty.

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