CORONAVIRUS | More than a thousand Malaysians stranded in India due to air travel suspension in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak are being assured that their evacuation is being discussed.
They are stuck at various locations, including about 1,000 in Chennai and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu, since flights were suspended on the India-Malaysia route on March 17.
"Most of them came to India as tourists and pilgrims and now find themselves unable to leave because of the suspension of flights. We are looking at ways to help them in going back as soon as possible," K Saravanan, consul general of Malaysia in Chennai, told Bernama.
"The government of Malaysia is working closely with the government of India to resolve the issue," he said.
Malaysia-based airlines are waiting for the Indian government's permission to operate special flights next week to fly home the stranded Malaysians, according to airline sources.
Two of these flights are planned from Chennai and Mumbai.
A consulate team is stationed in Tiruchirappalli, 330km from Chennai, to assist more than 500 Malaysians waiting for evacuation.
Hundreds have registered with the diplomatic mission in Chennai and the number is expected to grow as Malaysians stuck in other places in Tamil Nadu come forward to seek help.
B Bhuvaneswaran, 49, a frequent traveller to India who is stranded with his family, said he had no idea when they would be able to leave.
"I brought my family for pilgrimage and we were supposed to leave on Thursday, but now we have no clue. We are able to cope with the problem, but I know many who are in a desperate situation because they are sick or short of cash," Bhuvaneswaran told Bernama from Tiruchirappalli.
"The consulate people have been very helpful but they could not tell us when we might be able to leave," he said.
Forty-three-year-old A Indran, who came to Tamil Nadu with 11 members of his family to meet their relatives, said he did not have enough money.
"We came for only five days and now we are in a terrible situation. We don't know what to do," he said.
The consulate staff are asking the stranded Malaysians not to panic and are helping them in dealing with food and accommodation.
Meanwhile, India is suspending scheduled international flights for a week from March 22 as part of its efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
The country will observe a "people's curfew" from 7am to 9pm for seven days from this Sunday during which only those associated with emergency and essential services are expected to leave their homes.