UK

Russian plane crash: Flying Britons home from Sharm el-Sheikh 'will take time'

  • 5 November 2015
  • From the section UK
Media captionMark Lowen was interrupted as he tried to film at Sharm el-Sheikh airport

It could be "some time" before British tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh are home, David Cameron has said, as he defended the suspension of flights as "vital".

The PM said it was increasingly likely a "terrorist bomb" caused a Russian passenger jet to crash in Egypt on Saturday, killing all 224 on board.

UK experts are assessing security at the airport to try to get Britons home.

But Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said security was tightened 10 months ago at the UK's request.

Experts had assessed security at Egyptian airports when they found measures were "good enough", President Sisi said.

Rescue flights

It comes as UK airlines have said "rescue flights" will begin operating from Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday.

Easyjet said it will operate six additional flights, while Monarch will operate three flights in addition to two scheduled services.

About 20,000 Britons are estimated to be in the Red Sea resort, including 1,000 residents.

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In other latest developments:

  • Extra UK consular staff have been drafted in to Sharm el-Sheikh airport
  • A Ministry of Defence source says a small team of UK military personnel are in the resort to advise officials on logistics and security
  • The Kremlin says theories about the cause of the crash of Metrojet Airbus 321 are "speculation" at this stage
  • The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is advising its citizens against travel to or from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, but says flight suspensions are down to individual airlines
  • Germany's Lufthansa Group said it was cancelling all flights of its subsidiaries, Edelweiss and Eurowings, to Sharm el-Sheikh
  • Egyptian officials said the cockpit voice recorder of the Metrojet plane was badly damaged in the crash but they managed to extract information from the flight data recorder

Speaking after chairing a meeting of the government's emergency committee Cobra, Mr Cameron said: "The decisions that I'm taking are about putting the safety of British people first.

"What we need to put in place is more security at that airport so it is safe to fly people home.

"There is still an investigation taking pace in Egypt. We need to see the results of that investigation. The reason we have acted before that is because of intelligence and information we had that gave us the concern that it was more likely than not a terrorist bomb."

Leaders hold talks

Mr Cameron has held talks at Downing Street with Egyptian President Sisi, who arrived in the UK on Wednesday for a planned visit.

The two leaders held "excellent" discussions, Mr Cameron said, while the Egyptian leader said he has "complete understanding" of the UK's position.

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron also discussed "joint counter-terrorism" with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephone call, the Kremlin said.

Mr Putin told the prime minister how important it was that assessments of the possible causes of the crash be based on information from the official investigation, a Kremlin spokesman added.

Media captionLeon Chlon is stuck in Sharm el-Sheikh after his flight was cancelled

British holidaymakers stranded in Egypt have spoken of confusion at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

Kate Dodd from Didsbury in Manchester was on board her plane when all passengers were told they were being taken to a resort overnight.

"There was very little information about what is going on and communication," she said.

Tony Lesser, a Briton who flew back from Sharm el-Sheikh last week, said he had seen local people walking through airport security checks unchallenged and suggested the system for scanning and searching luggage seemed very lax.

But James Monk from Essex, who was on one of the last flights back on Tuesday, said he had noticed security at the airport was very tight even before the crash.

Experts in Egypt

It comes as Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin said the UK would need to be confident security standards "meet our expectations" before flights resume.

UK aviation experts had been sent to Sharm el-Sheikh to assess the security situation after the Metrojet Airbus 321, bound for St Petersburg, came down in the Sinai desert.

Egypt has criticised the UK decision to ground flights, accusing the government of making "a premature and unwarranted statement" on the crash.

It comes as a US official said they had reached the "tentative conclusion" that an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State group in the Sinai peninsula had planted an explosive device.


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