Air India jumbo plane ready for evacuation of Indians from Wuhan

Mumbai, January 28

Flag carrier Air India has kept one of its 423-seater jumbo plane ready in Mumbai for the evacuation of Indian citizens from Wuhan province in China in the wake of Cornovirus outbreak in the East Asian country, an official source said on Tuesday.

The airline is awaiting necessary approvals from the ministries of External Affairs and Health to operate the special evacuation flight, the source said.

The decision follows the government instructions to various ministries to take steps to deal with the issue.

“We have kept a Boeing 747-400 ready in Mumbai to operate an evacuation flight to China whenever we get the go-ahead from the government,” the source said.

Some 250 Indians are to be evacuated, the source said, adding, “We are awaiting clearances from the Ministry of External Affairs and also from the Health Ministry. The Health Ministry’s nod is required because the operating crew has to fly in a virus outbreak territory.”

At the Cabinet Secretary meeting on Monday, the government decided that steps might be taken to prepare for the possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan.

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus in China is a novel strain and not seen before.

The outbreak has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Accordingly, the Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities while the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Health will make arrangements for transport and quarantine facilities respectively, an official release had said on Monday.

The government also asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to issue instructions to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all direct and indirect flights to China besides facilitating in-flight announcements and distribution of health cards to all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.

Officials said the Ministry of External Affairs would make a request to the Chinese authorities for evacuation of Indian nationals, mostly students, stuck in Wuhan city.

“It was decided that steps may be taken to prepare for possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan. Accordingly, the Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities,” a government statement said.

Wuhan, along 12 other cities, has been completely sealed by the Chinese authorities to stop the virus from spreading. The death toll climbed to 80 with 2,744 confirmed cases.

Over 250 to 300 Indian students are reportedly stuck in Wuhan triggering concerns over their well-being. 

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