Coronavirus outbreak: Air India flight with 324 Indians takes off from Wuhan for Delhi

New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) Air India's jumbo B747 plane took off from the Wuhan airport in the early hours of Saturday for Delhi, evacuating 324 Indian nationals from China as the neighbouring country continued to deal with the outbreak of novel coronavirus, said officials.

'With 324 passengers, special flight has taken off for India from Wuhan. It may reach Delhi at 7.30am,' said an Air India spokesperson at 1.19 am on Saturday.

There are five doctors from Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital and one paramedical staff on board, said the Air India spokesperson.

The flight had departed from Delhi airport at 1.17 pm on Friday to evacuate Indian nationals from China, where more than 200 people - none of them Indian - have died due to novel coronavirus.

On Friday evening, the Air India spokesperson had stated that another special flight may take off from Delhi airport on Saturday to evacuate Indians from Wuhan.

About Friday's flight, the spokesperson had said earlier during the day, 'A team of five doctors from RML hospital, one paramedical staff from Air India, with prescribed medicines from doctors, masks, overcoats, packed food are in the aircraft. A team of engineers, security personnel are also there in this special aircraft. Whole rescue mission is being lead by Captain Amitabh Singh, Director (Operations), Air India.' The spokesperson had added that there were five cockpit crew members and 15 cabin crew members on Friday's flight.

Before departure at Delhi airport on Friday morning, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani had said, 'No service will take place in the plane. Whatever food is there will be kept in seat pockets. As there will be no service, there will be no interaction (between cabin crew and passengers).' 'Masks have been arranged for the crew and passengers. For our crew, we have also arranged a complete protective gear,' he had added.

'Total five doctors from the Health Ministry are also going... The plane will be there (at Wuhan airport) for 2-3 hours,' Lohani had said.

Air India has done such evacuations earlier also from countries such as Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait and Nepal.

The death toll in China's novel coronavirus outbreak on Friday climbed to 213 with the number of confirmed cases totalling to 9,692. Hubei province reported 5,806 confirmed cases, including 204 deaths. PTI DSP SMN SMN