Evacuation of Indians put off as Kuwaiti airport closed

Evacuation of thousands of Indians from Kuwait was suspended after the kingdom's airport was closed.
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Updated on Mar 21, 2003 03:51 PM IST
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PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Mumbai

The evacuation of thousands of Indians from Kuwait following the US war against Iraq was suspended after the kingdom's airport was closed on Friday, according to Air-India officials.

Scheduled and special flights from Kuwait were cancelled Friday, the officials said here. Air-India flight AI 859 to Kuwait that was to leave at 7:00 a.m. was first rescheduled and then cancelled.

All through Thursday and early Friday Air-India and Indian Airlines operated special flights from Kuwait. The two airlines have brought back some 1,400 Indians in two days.

Airline officials say alternative strategies would be worked out to bring in Indians from Kuwait. Indians there might have to leave by road to neighbouring countries and catch connecting flights.

According to Air-India, the "extra-section" flights, as these are called, were pressed into service after panic-stricken Indians from Kuwait hurriedly booked tickets to leave for home.

Officials here say Indians have not been asked to quit Kuwait. But New Delhi had advised the small number of Indians living in Iraq to leave.

Indians in Kuwait fear that the country could be attacked by Iraq following the outbreak of war. The war began Thursday morning with American and British forces launching air strikes on Iraq. Baghdad responded by firing missiles on northern Kuwait.

International airlines were operating flights connecting India to Bahrain, Dammam and Kuwait in the region till Thursday. If the war forces the closure of airports at these places, alternative destinations have been worked out.

Should flights be prevented from over flying Iran, aircraft will take a detour over Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Another route is the Oman-Yemen-Saudi Arabia sector and third but longer detour will be via Yemen-Djibouti-Sudan-Jeddah and Egypt.

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