The fourth evacuation flight from the war torn Ukraine arrived at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) in the early hours of Friday, carrying 185 stranded Indian nationals aboard Air India Express flight. Union minister Raosaheb Danve welcomed the passengers as soon as the Air India Express Flight IX 1204 landed at 2 am.
Interacting with passengers, Danve said the evacuation operation will continue till all those stranded in war-torn Ukraine are brought back to India. Another flight, this one from Budapest, is likely to land later in Mumbai around noon on Friday, the official said.
Ukraine's airspace is shut since February 24 and India has been evacuating its citizens by special flights from that country's western neighbours like Romania, Hungary and Poland.
Meanwhile, the youngest returnee from the war zone so far was a baby boy all of 25-days-old. However, his entry wasn’t that smooth for he lacked an essential thing—a passport. “How do we go about getting a passport where things are so volatile, when you have bullets and missiles flying all over the place. We managed to get on board the flight but when we arrived, we found that this was a problem,” shared Kuntart Makwana, 28, upon his arrival to India.
A CSMIA spokesperson said, “Only when we thought we were fully prepared for the smooth arrival of every Indian who was coming back, came a little baby without the necessary documentation. Our hearts went out to the little boy, and we did everything in our capacity to make it easy for the parents and the new-born while they were in discussion with the Immigration team. From priority RT-PCR to documentation to porter services—we were happy to help. We also arranged for their stay, and we are delighted to inform that the baby has safely reached his hometown, Ahmedabad.”
One of the 500 students who arrived at the CSMIA on different flights, Siya Das, 19, shared, “My landing in Mumbai from the war-ravaged country was a great relief. During my flight, I was preparing myself in my head for the next course of action once I landed--to book my ticket to my hometown and where to stay put till my next flight. But to my happy surprise, Mumbai International Airport put me on a flight back home, free of cost. I saw real heroes working silently and helping fellow Indians with all their means with no strings attached. Mine was a long tiring journey but the pride of being an Indian is at its peak.”
There were also a few who came to India with their furry friends after the compassionate decision to include companion animals in the evacuation was announced. Supriya Kumar, 23, a medical student who came to India with her one-year-old pet dog Coco, shared, “I will always be indebted to the airport authorities who ensured that Coco accompanied me. With relaxed measures, the airport authorities extended their thorough support allowing me to come back home with my pet. At Mumbai International Airport, the immigration, covid tests, and baggage collection processes were managed efficiently and quickly. They even arranged for our hotel stay as we were travelling to New Delhi the next day.”
Narrating another ordeal, Anushka Choudhary, 21, a medical student, said, “From crossing the Ukranian-Romania border, reaching the airport in Bucharest, to catching our flight, everything felt very uncertain and scary, till the aircraft took off. We were pleasantly surprised when we landed in Mumbai as the arrangements at the airport were awesome. It felt homecoming. The airport authorities also arranged onward flights for me and many others.”