KOCHI: As many as 112 foreign tourists, mainly French nationals, were evacuated from Kerala and Puducherry on Saturday. Air India operated a special flight from Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) in Nedumbasserry to Paris after the French Embassy coordinated with Kerala Tourism to rescue the stranded tourists.
According to Kerala Tourism officials, 105 of the tourists were French nationals and seven were from other European countries. Even though, a list of 136 tourists was submitted to Kerala Tourism, 24 preferred to stay back in Kerala.
"As many as 103 tourists were rescued from Kerala and nine from Puducherry. The Embassy of France in India came forward to repatriate the French tourists in India and the government of Kerala extended support and assistance for the repatriation of the tourists in Kerala. Those tourists who are asymptomatic and have completed 14 days in Kerala or tested negative were eligible for the repatriation," an official said.
To ensure the repatriation of foreign tourists, Kerala Tourism started an Evacuation Mission at General Hospital, Ernakulam. On Thursday, medical tests of foreign tourists were conducted and they were shifted to a hotel in Kakkanad on Friday. The tourists were later transported in private vehicles to the airport on Saturday morning. "The tourists boarded a flight at around 7.30 am and it took off at around 8 am. The flight will reach Paris via Mumbai," an official said.
A team under Kerala Tourism Joint Director K Raj Kumar and Ernakulam DTPC secretary S Vijayakumar worked to ensure the easy passage of tourists from Kerala. The Tourism Director P Bala Kiran and Tourism Secretary were coordinating with foreign embassies to evacuate the travellers.
Meanwhile, another flight to evacuate Russian tourists was cancelled as the airport at Moscow was shut down on Saturday. "Over 100 Russian tourists in Kerala were taken to Thiruvananthapuram to board a flight to Moscow. However, as the airport abroad has been closed, the evacuation could not be completed. The tourists have been shifted to hotels in Thiruvananthapuram," an official said.