Evacuation of Indians from virus-hit Wuhan: With 5 doctors on board, Air India's B747 plane departs
New Delhi, Jan 31: India will begin evacuating its citizens from Coronavirus-struck Wuhan in China's central Hubei province from Friday that has killed 213 people, infected 9,720 others and spread to at least 17 countries. Authorities have reached out to more than 600 Indians to ascertain their willingness to return.
Air India's 423-seater jumbo B747 plane departs from Delhi airport at 12.30 pm on Friday to evacuate Indian nationals who are in China as the neighbouring country deals with novel Coronavirus outbreak."The B747 plane is all set to depart from Delhi at 12.30 pm. It came from Mumbai on Friday morning only," said a senior airline official.
Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani said that five doctors from Health Ministry will be going in B747 aircraft to China. B747 plane will be at Beijing airport for 2-3 hours.
The first flight on Friday is expected to evacuate about 315 Indians from Wuhan and neighbouring areas. A second aircraft will be dispatched thereafter to bring back Indians from other parts of Hubei, people familiar with developments said.
"We have made a formal request to operate two aircraft to China to bring back Indian nationals from Hubei province. We are waiting for formal approval from the Chinese side before we can start the process," external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told a regular news briefing on Thursday.
"We have established contact with over 600 Indians across Hubei and are individually ascertaining their willingness to be repatriated," he added.
India earlier requested China for permission to operate two flights to bring back its nationals from worst-affected central Hubei province. Wuhan is the provincial capital of Hubei.
The Indian government and the Indian Embassy here have been collecting requisite details of the stranded Indians and held talks with the Chinese Foreign Ministry to work out the modalities for their evacuation.
The exact number of Indians stranded in Hubei has not yet been revealed.
According to reports, an Air India 747 Boeing has been kept ready to fly them back to India.
The embassy has already informed the stranded Indians that upon their arrival in India they need to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a designated city, the name of it which has not yet been revealed. The quarantine was necessary as experts say the incubation period of the new virus was on average three to seven days, with the longest being 14 days.
The Indian embassy has opened three hotlines to help the Indians in Wuhan to cope up with the crisis. Besides India, several other countries including the US, France, Japan, South Korea, are airlifting their nationals from Wuhan
A large number of people from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh from the neighbourhood besides African countries were also reportedly stranded in Hubei province.
(with PTI inputs)