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Airlifted Indians reach Mumbai from Egypt


Raksha Shetty,CNN-IBN
Jan 31, 2011 at 09:03pm IST

New Delhi: A Special Air India flight carrying 320 passengers from Egypt's capital Cairo arrived in Mumbai on Monday afternoon.

The flight mostly carried women, children and stranded tourists. Abhay Pathak, the Air India regional manager, Gulf, West Asia and Africa, said that the 747 Boeing aircraft, which has a capacity of 423 passengers, took off from Cairo on Sunday night at about 10 PM for Mumbai.

It was a huge relief for all the passengers who landed in Mumbai. Passengers told CNN-IBN that Cairo airport was no different from a crowded Indian railway station.

"We have already provisioned all passengers at the Cairo airport and I am told 300-odd family members of the Indian embassy boarded 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.

Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi said, "There are around 3000 Indian and they are ready to come back. We are helping them to come back from Egypt."

Another flight is expected to take off from Cairo later on Monday.

(With inputs from PTI)

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