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Relatives fear for Canadian ex-pats in Egypt

Tourists and Egyptians stranded at Cairo s international airport sleep late on January 29, 2011 as they can t leave the airport due to the curfew being brought forward in the Egyptian capital following anti-government riots.

Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images/Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Gunfire in apartment buildings, armed guards and the need to travel in a convoy to get safely to the airport is what Canadian families are hearing from distraught relatives eager to escape Egypt.

Clif McJannet, of Winnipeg, said his 27-year-old daughter, Kelly, a Grade 4 teacher in Cairo, was holed up in the second-floor of her apartment building with her boyfriend, while shots were fired just one floor below her.

"There were bullets flying in the bottom part [ground floor]of her apartment," Mr. McJannet said. "There are armed guards outside the apartment [building]to keep people from coming in the apartment."

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An estimated 6,500 Canadians are in Egypt and Canada is sending planes to evacuate those who want to leave.

Mr. McJannet says airport travel can be dangerous and in his daughter's case, it is a one-hour ride. While the Heritage International School where his daughter teaches has a bus, it is telling staff to stay put for now.

"The plan is to sit there and get to the airport. They have to get to the airport," he said. "They have water and food."

Some Canadians have been particularly fortunate, having the trip arranged through their employers, with little else to do but quickly pack.

Marney Carmichael, 41, of Sault Ste. Marie who is expecting her second child in late May, was given a few hours to pack up her family who have been living in Cairo for almost a year.

She, her daughter Leila, who is two-and-a-half, her husband and in-laws, traveled in a convoy to the airport in Cairo Sunday. The convoy was arranged through her husband's employer, Lafarge, which makes construction materials.

"They had four or five hours to get together their stuff," Marney's mother, Judy Carmichael, said from Sault Ste. Marie, noting they had enough time to pack up their family cat, Sphinx, a laptop and their belongings.

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The flight left late for Paris late Sunday, as there were delays processing all the people through customs. However, Marney told her mother that children in the airport were having fun playing with one another.

Still, for many Canadians, it is chaos, with difficulty trying to communicate with people.

Wendy Clarkson from Cambridge, Ont. has only been able to communicate by text message since internet and telephone communications have been limited.

She has been trying to get her brother, Gordon Heslop, and his wife Rebecca, both from Ingersoll, Ont., out of the country, since they set off for Egypt for their honeymoon. She said she was devastated after learning a flight booked to Rome had not yet left the airport.

With a report from Canadian Press

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