Mumbai: Amid the continuing violent disturbances in Egypt, an Air India plane carrying the first batch of around 300 Indians, stranded in the African country, landed here Monday afternoon.
Anxious relatives waiting at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport heaved a sigh of relief as the special Boeing 747-800 touched down at 2.20 pm. “Thank god, we are safely back in our country,” was the common refrain of the lucky few who escaped the tumult that has hit Egypt over the demand for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Notwithstanding their week-long ordeal, a sense of relief shone through their tired faces as they thanked the Indian government for undertaking the effort to rescue its citizens.
“It was like a nightmare (there was) gunfire everywhere, as smoke billowed out of the buildings and government properties set on fire. Thankfully, I am out of all that and safely back home,” said Pankaj, who had gone to Cairo on a leisure trip along with his wife and four others.
“I don’t want to go back again. There were thousands of people being badly beaten up by police,” said a visibly shaken Swathi (09).
“We had to make our way to the airport through the mob, which fortunately did not harm us. With no food we waited outside the terminal building in 9 degrees Celsius,” recounted Devina Chatterji, who had gone to Cairo with her husband, a Tata Steel executive, for a company’s conference.
She said Cairo Airport is teeming with people who just want to rush back to their countries but there are no flights.
“We are thankful to the Indian government that we are safely back in our country,” she said.
Most passengers who arrived in the first batch were from the TATA Steel, which had organized a three-day conference in Cairo.
The Boeing aircraft was flown to Cairo yesterday as a special measure to airlift Indians caught in the unrest.
Air India has also decided to send its Mumbai-Jeddah flight further to Cairo later this evening to bring more Indians stuck in the Egyptian capital back home.
According to estimates, there are about 600 Indians, including tourists, who are to be transported back to India. (PTI)