Bay Area retirees evacuate Egypt, recall chaos

February 4, 2011 12:46:51 AM PST
Two thousand Americans caught in the crisis in Egypt have now been evacuated. As they return home, they have their own stories to share. ABC7 sat down with a group of retirees who had to cope with chaos, curfews and flight cancellations to make it home to the Bay Area.

A group of retirees from the East Bay didn't expect to see the chaos while visiting Egypt. Some in the group recalled how they could see and smell the tear gas from afar. They watched as anti-Mubarak groups burned down the National Democratic Party headquarters and as tanks filled the streets. They were supposed to leave for Jordan on Saturday, when chaos erupted in Cairo.

"We saw all the protesting and the police shooting the tear gas canisters," says Alvin Chan, an evacuee.

"I wasn't really concerned until they started putting the curfew into effect. That's when I said, 'OK, we're going to have some problems,'" says Albert Lim, an evacuee.

As Egyptian authorities tried to control the spiraling violence, tourists were caught in the middle. The group of 16 realized they were trapped.

"It was very uncomfortable feeling because judging from what we had learned the previous night, we knew all the flights would be cancelled," says Joe Wong, an evacuee.

The cancellations and curfew caused major problems at the airports. At one point, the entire group, made up of some who are in their 70s, were stranded at the airport overnight. They weren't alone; there were thousands at the airport. On Monday, the U.S. embassy intervened and got the group on a charter flight to Athens.

After three days and traveling through three countries, they finally arrived home to the Bay Area on Wednesday. And from thousands of miles away, they hope calm returns to Egypt.