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Evacuation of Indians from coronavirus-struck Wuhan begins today

The first flight on Friday is expected to evacuate about 315 Indians from Wuhan and neighbouring areas.

indians-abroad Updated: Jan 31, 2020 12:49 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis and Rezaul H Laskar
Sutirtho Patranobis and Rezaul H Laskar
Beijing/New Delhi
An ambulance carrying a Japanese national who evacuated from Wuhan by a chartered plane, arrives at a hospital in Tokyo, Japan.
An ambulance carrying a Japanese national who evacuated from Wuhan by a chartered plane, arrives at a hospital in Tokyo, Japan.(Reuters image)

India will begin evacuating its citizens from Coronavirus-struck Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province from Friday, and authorities have reached out to more than 600 Indians to ascertain their willingness to return.

Air India special flight will depart today from Delhi to Wuhan (China) for evacuation of Indians, said Air India spokesperson.

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 a 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.

At least 170 people have died and more than 7,700 infected in the Coronavirus outbreak in China. A majority of deaths and cases of infection were reported in Hubei. Wuhan, a city of about 11 million, has been under an unprecedented lockdown for almost a week to contain the disease from spreading.

“We are preparing for air evacuation from Wuhan tomorrow in the evening. This flight will carry those Indian nationals who are in and around Wuhan and have conveyed consent for their evacuation,” said a message from the Indian embassy circulated among Indians in Hubei via the messaging app WeChat on Thursday evening.

The message added: “There will be another flight subsequently which will carry those who are from other parts of Hubei province.”

The message was circulated after China’s foreign ministry is learnt to have cleared India’s request to evacuate its citizens.

The embassy cautioned Indians in Hubei that details of the evacuation could change and the message was shared to alert them to be “adequately prepared”. In an earlier message, the embassy asked Indians to be ready for a 14-day quarantine on return to India.

Kumar said according to information available with Indian authorities, the overall number of Indians based in Hubei was 1,200, though the figure for those currently in the province is yet to be ascertained. He said there were no confirmed cases of Coronavirus infections among Indians in Hubei. “I have not heard of any Indians being affected anywhere in the world,” he added. He further said India has not put in place any restrictions for Chinese nationals wanting to visit India. India’s health ministry has issued an advisory asking people to refrain from travelling to China.

Ji Rong, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, said there are sufficient supplies of daily necessities in Wuhan and the Chinese government has mobilised all national resources for the supply of medical equipment and other materials in the city.

“The Chinese side pays close attention to the report of the emergence of one confirmed case of pneumonia caused by the novel Coronavirus in India and will cooperate with the Indian side to jointly strengthen the epidemic prevention and control,” she said.

China attaches great importance to safeguarding the safety of every foreigner, including Indians, and will provide necessary assistance to ensure the health of Indian citizens and address their legitimate concerns, Ji said.