AI flight from Iraq carrying stranded nurses lands in Kochi
Kochi: The special Air India flight carrying 46 Indian nurses and 137 others from strife-torn Iraq landed in Kochi airport at 11.57 am, according to airport officials.
The flight took off from Mumbai, after arriving from Erbil in Iraq. Earlier, airport officials confirmed the flight from Erbil landed in Mumbai at 8:43 am, almost 45 minutes before its scheduled time. The flight carrying 183 Indian nationals from Erbil was expected to reach Mumbai around 9.30 am.
Cochin International Airport Director AKC Nair told PTI on Saturday morning that after a few passengers disembark at Mumbai, the flight will then leave for Cochin.
The flight left Erbil, in Iraq, for India at around 4.30 am, he added. From Kochi, the flight will proceed to Hyderabad and then Delhi.
Besides the nurses, the plane is also carrying 137 other Indian nationals, including 70 from Kirkuk in the northern part of Iraq.
The ordeal of the nurses, who were working at a hospital in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, began when a swift Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS) offensive was launched on June 9. The nurses were moved out on Thursday against their will and detained in the militant-held city of Mosul, 250 km from Tikrit. The Erbil International airport is about 80 km from Mosul.
A joint-secretary level Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer and a female Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from Kerala are among the Indian officials travelling on the chartered flight. An Air India spokesperson in Kochi said there are 183 passengers, including 23 crew members and three government officials, onboard the flight.
The flight will make a 'technical halt' in Mumbai for re-fuelling and catering supplies before landing in Cochin. According to information provided by Air India from Erbil, 46 nurses will get down at Cochin and around 100 other passengers are bound for Hyderabad, the spokesperson said.
Airport sources said on Friday that the special flight Boeing 777 from Erbil was expected to reach the Iraqi city around 6.40 am.
Kerala CM to receive nurses
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will receive the nurses at Cochin airport, where a special immigration desk has been set up.
The Air India flight took off earlier from Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, after the nurses were freed by the insurgents following intense Indian diplomatic efforts. The plane will later go to New Delhi with some 70 other Indians, who were stranded in Iraq.