Air India special aircraft, AI 160, ferrying them along with the remaining 137 evacuees made a smooth touchdown at 11.52 a.m.
As the heavens opened up over the Cochin International Airport Limited after nearly a week, it was as if the rain gods were pleased to welcome home the 46 Indian nurses from the war-ravaged Iraq.
Air India special aircraft, AI 160, ferrying them along with the remaining 137 evacuees made a smooth touchdown at 11.52 a.m. as a motley crowd of relatives, friends, officials, and the media gathered outside the international terminal.
With the month-long ordeal behind them, the visibly happy girls, some in joyful tears, embraced their parents and friends in an emotional reunion. (Also read Neenu returns home to celebrate her most memorable birthday / An unexpected homecoming for Nithyamol)
A team of State officials led by chief minister Oommen Chandy was present at the airport sharing the joy. He attributed their smooth return to the deft and meticulous diplomacy of the Centre and State governments. “It’s a victory of Indian diplomacy,” thundered the leader.
The return of the rescued nurses from Iraq witnessed heightened drama. When the ordeal seemed over it was informed that the arrival of special Air India aircraft carrying the nurses will be delayed by more than five hours for technical reasons.
This added to the anxiety of parents and relatives waiting at the airport.
The delay was attributed to the many hurdles faced in the operation of an unscheduled flight. “Clearances had to be taken from all countries covered during the course of the flight to use their airspace since it was an unscheduled operation. The paper work of the passengers was another cause of delay,” airline sources told The Hindu. The aircraft had a brief stopover over at Mumbai for refueling.
Many relatives had already reached the airport in the early hours anticipating the arrival of the flight at the originally scheduled time. The news about the delay heightened the tension of several parents and relatives.
CIAL had made all arrangements for receiving the flight and its occupants at any hour.
The delay proved a blessing for the huge media contingent assembled at the airport from early morning and in some cases since last Friday late night. Relatives and friends of the nurses hardly had any time to relax with the national and local media vying with one another for interviews.
The usual berating of governments and embassy officials, which is the norm during such evacuations, was missing to a large extent with relatives profusely thanking the all round support extended by various agencies.
Exclusive: List of nurses back from Iraq
Earlier report: Special Air India plane carrying Indian nurses lands in Mumbai