Amidst the spiraling crisis in Egypt, 300 Indians, mostly women and children, are returning to India from Egypt. The chartered Air India flight carrying them is due to land in Mumbai early on Monday morning.
Abhay Pathak, the Air India regional manager, Gulf, West Asia and Africa, told that the 747 Boeing aircraft, which has a capacity of 423 passengers, was on its way to Cairo from Mumbai and is scheduled to land at 2005 hours local time.
“We have already provisioned all passengers at the Cairo airport and I am told 300-odd family members of the Indian embassy are ready to board the flight. Another 300 Tata Group workers and their family members are waiting to be evacuated,” he said.
Authorities say that more such flights can be operated if the chaos deepens or if there are attacks on Indians or their properties.
“We are taking steps to bring back people who want to come back to India. We have advised Indians to avoid non essential travel to Egypt,” said SM Krishna, Foreign Affairs Minister.
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Egypt. It’s an internal matter of Egypt, a country with which we have cordial relations,” he further added.
Earlier, there were reports of hundreds of Indian passengers being stranded at Cairo’s airport on Sunday as flights were cancelled or delayed, leaving them unable to leave because of a government-imposed curfew in the capital.
Egypt was in the grip of increasing lawlessness on Sunday as gangs of armed men helped free thousands of prisoners and looters rampaged malls, banks and jewellery stores, even as many army men doffed uniforms to join the uprising against Mubarak’s 30-year rule that has claimed at least 150 lives in six days.
In 1990, during the time of the Gulf War Air India entered the history books evacuating more than 1 lakh Indians from the desert outside the Jordanian capital Amman. This time it’s Egypt but no evacuation on that scale is either planned or envisaged. In fact the government is shy of using the word evacuation.
There are about 3,600 Indians in Egypt of which 2,200 are in Cairo. Some Indian tourists are stranded in Sharm-el-Sheikh and efforts were underway to transport them. There are no reports of any Indian having been injured or assaulted since the unrest began on Tuesday.