KERALA

First Haj flight takes off from Karipur

KOZHIKODE DEC. 24. The inaugural Haj flight from the country this year took off from Karipur airport today, with 409 pilgrims on board. The Air India flight left on its maiden pilgrimage service around 5.05 p.m. even though it was scheduled to take off at 11 a.m.

The aircraft that was to take the pilgrims arrived at Karipur airport late since its departure from New Delhi was delayed because of thick fog at the airport there.

The Indian Union Muslim League leader (IUML) and Central Haj Committee member, E.Ahmed, MP flagged off the pilgrim flight. The Haj pilgrims were staying at the makeshift Haj camp, which was inaugurated on Tuesday evening, at the E.M.E.A. College at Kondotty, near the airport. The IUML State president, Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, had inaugurated Haj camp on Tuesday evening.

About 19 such flights will carry 7,658 pilgrims including 4,088 women and 11 children from Kerala and Lakshadweep till January 11 from Karipur airport.

A Haj cell for distributing travel documents, emigration counter, customs counter, facilities for offering prayers and performing ablutions for 800 pilgrims at a time were set up at the Haj camp.

According to the Haj camp authorities, the total number of Haj pilgrims who boarded the maiden flight today was originally 410, but only 409 boarded the flight.

Earlier, speaking at the inaugural function of the camp at Kondotty near the Karipur airport on Tuesday evening, the Industries Minister, P. K. Kunhalikutty, said that a permanent Haj camp with all facilities for pilgrims would be set up at Karipur airport from next year.

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