Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus: Air India flight with five doctors to evacuate Indians from China

Staff Report/New Delhi
Filed on January 31, 2020
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(File photo)

The flight, carrying 324 passengers, is expected to land in Delhi at 7.30am

Amid the coronavirus outbreak in China, the Air India departed its special flight from New Delhi to Wuhan along with a team of five doctors to evacuate the Indian nationals, officials said on Friday.

The special flight, double decker jumbo 747 with 15 cabin crew and 5 cockpit crew had been departed from Indira Gandhi International Airport (T3), Delhi to Wuhan for the evacuation of Indians at 12.30 pm on Friday. 

The flight, carrying 324 passengers, is expected to land in Delhi at 7.30am said Dhananjay Kumar, official spokesperson for Air India.

Earlier, a senior Air India official said that the national carrier's Boeing B747 aircraft with a capacity of 423 passengers will fly from New Delhi at 12.30pm for Wuhan in China and then return on Saturday morning around 2am. Another proposed special flight to China is also scheduled on February 1.

Air India's jumbo jet B747 flew along with a team of five doctors to screen the Indians stranded in Wuhan before allowing them to board the special flight.

Ashwani Lohani, Chairman and Managing director, Air India was present at the T3 airport during the departure.

"This time to evacuate Indians from Wuhan, the site of the outbreak of coronavirus. This mission begins today with a Jumbo 747 operating between Delhi and Wuhan. No service will take place in the plane. Whatever food is there will be kept in seat pockets. As there will be no service, there will be no interaction (between cabin crew and passengers)," said Ashwani Lohani.

He added that masks have been arranged for the crew and passengers and for the crew  complete protective gear have also arranged.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency after the death toll in China increased to 213 on Friday, with 9,692 confirmed in the country's 31 provincial-level regions. 

The new virus, which is of the same genre as SARS which broke out in 2003, was first reported in the WHO Disease Outbreak news on January 5, 2020.

It has progressively spread across many countries from its epicentre in Wuhan.

Air India did such evacuation earlier also from Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait and Nepal.

In August, 1990, Air India and erstwhile Indian Airline evacuated more than one lakh Indians from Iraq and Kuwait via 488 flights in 59 days, created world record for the largest aerial evacuation since 1948-49.

Air India successfully accomplished 'Operation Rahat '( Yemen) in 2015 as well as operation "safe homecoming" in 2011. Air India also participated extensively during national crisis like Bhuj Earthquake, Jammu and Kashmir, Leh,Chennai and Uttarakhand floods and tsunami at Andaman-Nicobar.

(With inputs from IANS)

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