Video: Suffolk businessman saw Egyptian uprising first hand
IPSWICH: A businessman stranded for two days in conflict-ridden Egypt today told how he saw the political uprising against the country’s president first-hand.
Charles Smith flew to the North African country on January 24 and was scheduled to return six days later.
But the sales manager for Ipswich-based company Franklin Fueling Systems was unable to get on to his planned flight back to Britain because operator British Midlands International judged Cairo too dangerous to fly into.
For the next two days, Mr Smith, 64, found refuge on the 17th floor of the city’s Semiramis Intercontinental hotel overlooking Qasr El Nile Bridge.
From there, he witnessed protesters blasted with water canon, but said he never feared for his own safety thanks to the military and locals who had teamed up to stop looters from invading the building.
He said: “I saw the battle raging outside from my hotel room. Smoke and tear gas was thrown and I was absolutely stranded.
“But I did not feel scared,” he added. “I have known the people here for the last 15 years and follow the political situation.”
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Arriving back at Cairo airport on January 31, Mr Smith said the scene of stranded Brits was “shocking”.
The airport had run out of water and people had been left without assistance and information.
“I saw a pregnant woman sleeping on the floor and met a diabetic woman who had one more dose of insulin and didn’t know what would happen when she needed more,” he said.
Mr Smith, who lives in Thurston, eventually returned to the UK on January 31.
Riots in Egypt began on January 25 with people demanding president Hosni Mubarak be overthrown or that he step down.
He has since announced he will retire in September, but protesters are demanding he relinquish his position immediately.
An estimated 20,000 Brits are currently holidaying in Egypt and Foreign Secretary William Hague announced in the House of Commons yesterday that the Foreign Office was chartering a flight to help people get back to the UK today.
“I will send further flights if necessary just to make sure that people are able to leave if they wish to do so,” he said.
n Opinion – page 6.
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