US government jet evacuates Americans from China outbreak zone

The US government-chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the US Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other US citizens.

Published: 29th January 2020 02:34 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th January 2020 02:34 PM   |  A+A-

Medical workers in protective gear stand as a woman suspected of being ill with coronavirus waits to be seen at a community health station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.

Representative image (Photo | AP)


ANCHORAGE (ALASKA): An airplane that a federal official said was evacuating as many as 240 Americans from a Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak departed Wednesday has landed in the US.

The US government-chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the US Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other US citizens.

The plane is making a refuelling stop in Alaska before flying on to Southern California, the US Embassy in China has said.

The white cargo plane with red and gold stripes and no passenger windows arrived at the mostly desolate North Terminal just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, local time.

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The jetway was extended from the end of the terminal, but it also had no windows. Passengers were not visible.

Media were held in a concourse between the airport's two terminals, about 100 yards (91.4 meters) from the plane.

Airport workers were buzzing around the plane after it landed. Alaska health officials said a news conference will be held later.

Tuesday night, it was announced that the plane would land at March Air Reserve Base in California's Riverside County instead of at Ontario International Airport in neighbouring San Bernardino County.

Curt Hagman, an Ontario airport commissioner, said the Centers for Disease Control announced the diversion.

"We were prepared but the State Department decided to switch the flight" to the airbase, Hagman said.

Wuhan is the epicentre of a new virus that has sickened thousands and killed more than 100 and the official said Tuesday that the plane left the city before dawn Wednesday, China time.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

In Anchorage, Alaska, passengers were set to go through customs and Centers for Disease Control screening.

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"Then they will put them back on the plane and then send them on to their final destination," said Jim Szczesniak, manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

He didn't know how long it would take beyond "hours."

The passengers are being isolated in the airport's international terminal, which lies mostly dormant in the winter months.

Szczesniak stressed the terminal is not connected to the larger and heavily used domestic flights terminal, and each has separate ventilation systems.

The lobby in the international terminal was nearly empty Tuesday afternoon, and an airport employee was seen jogging through though the facility that has closed counters for companies like Korean Air, China Airlines and Asiana Airlines.

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