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Coronavirus: Air India jumbo plane ready to evacuate Indian citizens from China's Wuhan

The airline is awaiting necessary approval from ministries of external affairs and health

By Agencies in New Delhi
  • Published 28.01.20, 11:21 AM
  • Updated 28.01.20, 11:21 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
A thermal screening device checks passengers arriving in India from China in view of the coronavirus outbreak, at Delhi International airport, Monday, January 27, 2020. PTI

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 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 a go ahead from the government," the source said.

Some 250 Indians are to be evacuated, the source said, adding, "we are awaiting clearances from 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 may 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, 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 instruction to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all direct and indirect flight to China besides facilitating in-flight announcements and distribution of health cards to all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.

Officials said ministry of external affairs will 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, ministry of external affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities," a government statement said.

Wuhan along 12 other cities have been completely sealed by Chinese authorities to stop the virus from spreading. The death toll climbed to 106 with 2,744 confirmed cases as of Tuesday.

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

The US Consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where authorities cut off most access January 22 in an effort to contain the disease, was preparing to fly its diplomats and some other Americans out of the city. Japan, France, Mongolia and other governments have also planned evacuations.