Egypt's new military rulers reinforced their border with Libya on Tuesday and opened the frontier round-the-clock to thousands fleeing the turmoil unleashed by the revolt against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Egypt, which borders Libya to the east, was planning to send at least four aircraft to evacuate its citizens from Tripoli, pending permission from Libyan air traffic authorities.
The Egyptian foreign minister said Libya had said two Egyptian military aircraft could land to collect Egyptian workers, but it was not immediately clear when and at which airport. He said runways at Benghazi airport had been destroyed in the turmoil.
Refugees fleeing the turmoil in Libya, where Gaddafi has resorted to tanks, helicopters and warplanes to fight the uprising, described scenes of chaos and marauding gangs as they tried to escape.
"You leave Benghazi and the you have ... nothing but gangs and youths with weapons," Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at the border on his way to Cairo from Benghazi.
The Cairo govenment has declared Libya responsible for the safety of its citizens after Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, accused Egyptians of involvement in the turmoil -- an accusation Egypt has said was made "without any clear basis".
"We know there are about 1 million to 1.5 million Egyptians in Libya, therefore we recommend to our citizens that you stay in your homes, stay off the streets, secure yourselves with water and food," Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.
The Egyptian military has set up field hospitals on its side of the border. The military has been governing Egypt since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, serving to inspire protesters in Libya and elsewhere.
The Egyptian army said on Monday that Libyan forces had withdrawn from their side of the frontier and had been replaced by "people's committees", though it was not clear whether or not they were loyal to Gaddafi.
Egypt's military council had decided to send extra border guards to the frontier and would open a crossing at the town of Salum to enable trapped refugees and those with medical problems to get out, a military source said. Witnesses saw about a dozen Egyptian police trucks going into Salum.
Minibuses crammed with Egyptians expatriate workers were streaming back into the country from Libya, their roofs stacked high with bags and blankets.
Two big supply trucks, organised by Libyan expatriate workers in Egypt, were trying to take sugar, potatoes, milk and other goods into Libya.
Egypt's state news agency said late on Monday that 4,000 Egyptians had returned from Libya, an oil-producing country where they have found work. Those who returned said many others could not make the journey due to shortage of vehicles and fuel.