World's largest cargo plane with UK Covid aid takes off for India

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on May 7, 2021
Antonov 124 aircraft being loaded with Covid aid for India at Belfast airport. — Courtesy: Twitter

Flight carrying three 18-tonne oxygen generators and 1,000 ventilators expected to reach India on Sunday morning

The world’s largest cargo plane took off from Belfast in Northern Ireland on Friday, carrying three 18-tonne oxygen generators and 1,000 ventilators as part of the United Kingdom’s latest response to India’s Covid-19 crisis.

Officials said in London that airport staff worked through the night to load the life-saving kit, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office aboard the massive Antonov 124 aircraft.

Each of the three oxygen generation units — the size of 40-foot freight containers — produces 500 litres of oxygen per minute, enough for 50 people to use at a time. They are expected to reach India on Sunday morning, where the Indian Red Cross will help transfer them to hospitals.

The latest consignment is in addition to 200 ventilators and 495 oxygen concentrators, which the UK sent to India in late April. Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their virtual summit earlier this week that the UK will do all it can to help.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK is sending surplus oxygen generators from Northern Ireland to India. This life-saving equipment will support the country’s hospitals as they care for vulnerable Covid patients”.

“The UK and India are working together to tackle this pandemic. No one is safe until we are all safe”, he added.

Northern Ireland’s health minister Robin Swann was at Belfast International Airport to welcome the arrival of the plane last night and to see the oxygen generators supplied by the Department of Health (Northern Ireland) loaded onto the giant cargo plane.

Swann said: “The scenes coming out of India are a vivid reminder of the devastation this virus can cause and it shows no sign of abating. It is our moral duty to help and support where we can. Oxygen supply is under severe stress in India’s health system…I sincerely hope this equipment goes some way to easing the pressure and pain the country is currently experiencing.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “The situation in India is heart-breaking and we stand side by side with our friends as they face this immense challenge. As we battle this global pandemic together, the vital equipment we are providing, including ventilators and oxygen generators, will help save lives and support India’s healthcare system”.

“As one United Kingdom we will continue to do all we can to help the Indian health authorities turn the tide on this dreadful virus”, he added.

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