Cyprus Mail

Two more planes leave Cyprus for Sharm el-Sheikh (Update 2)

easyJet planest on the tarmac at the old Larnaca airport on Saturday (Nathan Morley)

Two more of the 11 planes from the UK that were based in Cyprus flew out to Sharm el-Sheikh from Larnaca on Sunday evening to help repatriate British tourists, Hermes Airports said.

Another two left on Saturday night. A third plane is still stationed at Paphos airport awaiting the green light to fly on Monday, the Cyprus News Agency quoted Hermes spokesman Adamos Aspris as saying.

“Two more British airlines departed from Larnaca International Airport, bound for Sharm el-Sheikh,” Aspris said. “The two aircraft are involved in the effort to repatriate British nationals from the Egyptian tourist resort.”

He said the total number of aircraft that left Cyprus was now four. “Another aircraft which is waiting at Paphos International Airport for the same purpose, barring unforeseen circumstances is expected to depart for Sharm el Sheikh, tomorrow,” he added.

Aspris said earlier on Sunday that six of the 11 aircraft – two in Larnaca and one in Paphos – had been recalled to the UK on Friday and had flown back empty.

He said the process of repatriating foreign nationals from the Sinai Peninsula was being carried out slowly, due to the increased number of flights coming and going at Sharm el-Sheikh airport, and the tighter security measures taken by the Egyptian authorities.

Aspris said that Cyprus’ two airports remained operationally ready to respond to any emergencies that may arise, as a result of the unstable situation in the region.

Some 20,000 British tourists were stranded at the Egyptian resort after last week’s Russian airline crash prompted British, Russian and other airlines to cancel flights on fears the aircraft was brought down by a bomb. UK reports suggested around 2,000 Britons have been repatriated so far but Egypt has limited flights in and out of the resort as its small airport cannot handle a large influx of aircraft.

British passengers have also been told they will not be able to take any hold luggage with them on any of the flights for security purposes. The luggage is to be brought back to the UK separately.

Britain’s Daily Mail reported on Sunday that angry British tourists stranded in Egypt claimed Russians were receiving priority treatment following reported deal between Moscow and Cairo. “Humiliatingly, Britain appeared to be left out of the arrangement – and many travellers now face a nine-day wait to get home,” the paper said.

Russia has returned 11,000 of its tourists from Egypt in the last 24 hours, RIA news agency said on Sunday, but tens of thousands more are waiting for flights home.

The chief Egyptian investigator into the crash of the Russian airliner on October 31 which killed all 224 people on board said his team was considering all scenarios for the cause of the tragedy after reporting a noise registered in the last seconds of the flight recording. Western countries suspect a bomb was planted by militants.

A leading airline predicted the disaster will lead to stringent aviation security worldwide.

Thousands of mostly Russian and British tourists are stranded at Sharm al-Sheikh airport, where the Airbus A321 took off for St Petersburg before crashing 23 minutes into the flight.

Around 80,000 Russians were left in Egypt after the Kremlin grounded all flights to the country on Friday following the crash, due to security concerns.

A British official said on Saturday it could take 10 days for all British tourists to be flown home.

The crash occurred when the auto-pilot was engaged. Debris was scattered over a 13-km (8-mile) area “which is consistent with an in-flight break-up”, said Ayman al-Muqaddam, head of the investigation committee.

Emirates Airlines President Tim Clark said he expected the crash would result in demands for stringent aviation security worldwide. Speaking at the Dubai Airshow, Clark said he had ordered a security review, but was not suspending any flights as a result of the disaster. Emirates does not operate regular flights to Sharm al-Sheikh.

Islamic State militants fighting security forces in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula have said they brought down the aircraft as revenge for Russian air strikes against Islamist fighters in Syria, where Islamic State controls large areas in the east and north of the country. They said they would eventually tell the world how they carried out the attack.

If the group was responsible, it would have carried out one of the highest profile killings since al Qaeda flew passenger planes into New York’s World Trade Center in September 2001.

On Saturday, security officials said Egypt is checking video footage at Sharm al-Sheikh airport for any suspicious activity linked to the crash, the clearest sign yet that Cairo suspects it could have been targeted by militants.

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