‘We could hear the sound of gunfire all night’

Reporter:

Rob Bellis

A FAMILY has told of the moment residents in their street armed themselves against looters amid violent protests in Egypt.

Teachers Nadia Gilchrist and her mother Barbara Evans, from Llangollen, but now living in Cairo, were at home with Nadia’s two small children when the troubles erupted.

Nadia’s husband Steve was working in Alexandria and found himself trapped at the centre of the unrest there.

Egypt’s largest cities have been engulfed by mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic regime.

Nadia said: “On the Friday we were largely unaffected apart from the cutting off of the mobile phones.

“I couldn’t get hold of Steve and I was worried sick because of that.”

The troubles reached the area where Nadia lives the following day.

“Saturday night was just awful.

“We live in an area which is quite upscale – it is home to mainly Americans and European expats.

“There are always police on the streets but they had all gone.

“There had been looting – there were pictures of looters on the roof of the supermarket where I go shopping and most of it seemed to have been destroyed by fire.

“To stop looters coming into the area, the local Egyptians and expats parked cars across the end of the street.

“Some of the Egyptians wrapped white bands around their arms and had big sticks to try to protect their homes.”

She added: “There was a real sense of unity and the guys stayed out there all night.”

Nadia said gunfire could be heard all night but its source was unclear.

She said: “I was worried that it could ricochet into the bedroom.

“The police station nearby was attacked and the following day the army came in.

“There were tanks on the street and you did feel a lot safer with them there.”

Meanwhile, husband Steve was in Alexandria, the scene of some of the worst violence during the protests.

He said: “It peaked on the Friday night. Where I was working was right next to the police station and telecoms centre that were attacked.

“There were massive crowds and the police station was completely burned down.

“I wanted to get back to Cairo but the street was blocked by burning vehicles.”

Steve was finally able to drive back to Cairo on Sunday and take the family to the safety of their holiday home on the Red Sea.

They are now awaiting instructions from the British Embassy as to whether or not they will have to return to the UK.

- The Egyptian army has said it will not use force against protesters, but Britons yet to leave the crisis-stricken country were advised to stay away from public gatherings.

Organisers called for a million people to join protest rallies yesterday to mark a week of open dissent and increase pressure on Mr Mubarak to stand down.

See full story in the Leader

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