14k people in 12 nations: India plans massive air evacuation

Between May 7 and 13, India is likely to operate 10 flights to the UAE, seven each to the US and the UK, five each to Saudi Arabia and Singapore and two to Qatar

Already, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) had decided not to stamp boarding passes. Photo: iStock

In one of the biggest evacuation processes since independence, India is likely to send 64 flights from May 7 to 13 to bring home around 14,800 Indian nationals stranded abroad because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Senior government officials on Tuesday (May 5) said that thousands of people will be brought back home via air and by sea.

The Central government is also likely to deploy three ships of the Indian Navy  to rescue Indian nationals stranded in West Asia and the Maldives due to airspace closures.

These special flights would be operated by Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express to repatriate Indians from 12 countries — the UAE, the UK, the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, said the officials.

India has been under a lockdown since March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus and it will continue till May 17. All commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this period.

Therefore, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced on Monday it will facilitate the return of asymptomatic Indian nationals stranded abroad from May 7 onwards, in a phased manner, through aircraft and naval ships on a payment basis.

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Between May 7 and 13, India is likely to conduct 10 flights to the UAE, seven flights each to the US and the UK, five to Saudi Arabia, five to Singapore and two flights to Qatar, the officials told PTI.

It is also likely to conduct seven flights each to Malaysia and Bangladesh, five each to Kuwait and Philippines, two each to Oman and Bahrain, the officials noted.

Out of the 64 repatriation flights, 15 would be from Kerala, 11 each would be from Delhi and Tamil Nadu, seven each would be from Maharashtra and Telangana, and remaining flights would be from five other states, the officials said.

“Approximately 14,800 Indian nationals are likely to return to the country through these 64 flights during the seven-day period. The government will run more repatriation flights after May 13,” one of the officials said.

The coronavirus has infected more than 46,400 people and killed around 1,560 people in India till now.

According to ANI, the first day of evacuation will see 10 flights to bring back 2,300 Indians, followed by around 2,050 people arriving in Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Delhi from nine different countries on day 2.

A similar number of people stranded in 13 countries across the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia and USA shall arrive in Mumbai, Kochi, Lucknow and Delhi.

As per the plan, the government would evacuate 1,850 stranded nationals from eight different countries, including the US, UK and UAE on day 4.

(With inputs from agencies)