“It’s our second life,” said a relieved Sona Joseph as she arrived at the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) along with her twin sister Veena Joseph and 44 other Indian nurses on special Air India flight, AI 160, from Erbil in strife-torn Iraq on Saturday.
In what came as a relief to the Modi government after days of planning a rescue mission in Iraq, the plane carrying 183 evacuees, including workers from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, touched down safely at Kochi though five hours behind schedule.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who was at the airport with a host of leaders and officials, attributed the successful evacuation to the concerted and coordinated efforts of the Ministry of External Affairs, the State government, and the Indian embassy.
With the month-long ordeal behind them, the visibly happy women, some with tears in their eyes, embraced their parents and friends.
The evacuation process was not without its share of drama as the special plane flown to Erbil was initially denied landing permission. Gyanesh Kumar, Resident Commissioner of Kerala House in Delhi, who was on the plane, contacted Chief Minister Chandy who immediately got in touch with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Ms Swaraj’s intervention cleared the way for the plane.
In Hyderabad, fear was still writ large on the faces of the 78 workers from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.