Thirty hours after it was forced to shut down its runway and suspend operations due to flooding caused by the Periyar in spate, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) at Nedumbassery sprang back to life on Tuesday afternoon.
A visibly relieved V.J. Kurian, managing director of CIAL, declared at a press meet that the first flight — an Air India Express flight bound for Doha after the airport was closed at 10.30 a.m. on Monday — had landed at the airport at 3.20 p.m., even as he was addressing mediapersons.
The runway was declared fit by an airport safety team following a procedure laid down by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The Instrument Landing System was also unaffected.
Mr. Kurian said arrangements had been made to ensure that the backlog of passengers was cleared by midnight. “We have asked all airlines to deploy wide-bodied aircraft to facilitate smooth clearance of backlog passengers,” he said.
All counters for customs and emigration clearance were up and running to rule out any further delay.
Earlier, more than a hundred workers braved chilly weather for more than three hours starting Monday midnight to clean the runway and get it ready for operation. The damp runway lightings were disassembled and cleaned before clearing them. It also helped that rain, which had wreaked havoc for the last couple of days, stayed away for the better part of the day.
Mr. Kurian said though the airport officials had put up a brave face in declaring that the airport would open for normal services by Tuesday evening, the situation seemed increasingly grim on Monday evening. The parking bay and taxi bay were fully-flooded and the runway partially-flooded.
He gave full credit to the staff of the airport and all related agencies who worked overnight to help the airport resume operations. Fire and rescue wing of the airport came in for special praise as five fire tenders pumped out 16,000 litres of water per minute ensuring that the situation did not worsen. A section of the compound wall was also pulled down to facilitate speedy draining of water.
On losses the airport incurred from the suspension of operations for 30 hours, he said it was yet to be estimated. The priority was to resume operation to avoid any further hardships to passengers, he added.