New Delhi, April 26:
A third flight of the Indian Air Force landed here on Sunday evening with 266 people onboard from Kathmandu, taking to 1,342 the total number of Indian nationals evacuated from quake-hit Nepal since the first plane landed late on Saturday night.
“Another aircraft with 266 passengers has landed,” defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar told IANS.
The spokesperson said it was the third flight on Sunday, and more were expected to land later.
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, meanwhile, said the government was also trying to get people out of Nepal through buses, and some movement will start by Monday morning.
The other two flights on Sunday brought back 237 and 285 people, respectively.
The first air force plane to arrive here from the Nepal capital was a C-130J Super Hercules with 55 passengers, including four infants, around 10.45 p.m. on Saturday.
It was followed by a C-17 Globemaster III, a little after midnight with 102 people, including an infant.
In the early hours of Sunday, an IL-76 aircraft brought back 152 passengers, and around 4.45 a.m., another C-17 Globemaster III returned with 247 Indians.
The movement had to be suspended between 1.30 and 3 p.m. due to fresh tremors in Nepal.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday morning said the air force will bring back a total of 1,500 Indians stranded in Nepal.
“We brought back around 500 people yesterday (Saturday) and today (Sunday). We will evacuate 1,500 Indians from Nepal,” Parrikar told reporters on the margins of a defence investiture ceremony here.
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, meanwhile, said a “few thousand” Indians as well as people from other countries were stranded in Kathmandu.
He appealed to them to be patient.
“We have a lot of Indians and citizens of other countries. We have to tell them they have to understand relief and rescue in Kathmandu is our primary purpose. We have to fly in loads of equipment and supplies. We will accommodate as many people as we can in bringing them back. This will take a little bit of time,” said Jaishankar.
He also said the Indian government will try to evacuate people through buses.
“Hope we will be able to get people out of Kathmandu by buses. We have been trying to confirm access of two roads to Kathmandu. To the best of our information, these roads are open but the traffic is very slow,” Jaishankar said.
“We are expecting about 35 buses to move out on these two routes. We have also asked our embassy in Kathmandu to see if they can organise buses and send people. They are having difficulty because buses and drivers are not readily available but they are making best efforts. By tomorrow morning will have some bus movements,” he said.
Home Secretary L.C. Goyal said the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) has been asked to allow buses from the Indian side to enter Nepal to evacuate people.
Over 2,400 people died and thousands were injured as Saturday’s earthquake and several strong aftershocks caused widespread destruction in Nepal. At least 62 people have died in India.