An Air India aircraft on Wednesday took off from Mumbai for the Russian town of Magadan, where 216 passengers and 16 crew members have been stranded since Tuesday.
Their flight AI-173 from Delhi to San Francisco was diverted to the remote Russian town after one of its engines developed a technical snag.
A video on social media showed the passengers staying in makeshift accommodation at a school. A passenger named Gagan complained about inadequate facilities and told NDTV that there was lack of clarity from the airline about the situation.
“The toilet facilities are not right,” he added. “Language is a barrier. The food here is very, very different...Some people are just eating bread and soup. Older people [are] running out of medicine.”
Air India said that the flight that took off from Mumbai is expected to reach Magadan at 6.30 am on Thursday local time, or midnight according to Indian Standard Time. The aircraft will take the passengers and crew members onwards to San Francisco on Thursday.
“An Air India team is on board the flight to provide any support that the passengers and staff at [Magadan] may require,” the airline said. “The ferry flight is carrying essentials in addition to sufficient amount of food to cater to all passengers on the onward flight scheduled from GDX [Magadan] to San Francisco.”
Air India has also set up a dedicated round-the-clock hotline – +91 124 264 1427 – for passengers and crew members stranded in Russia.
It is not currently known how many passengers and crew members on the flight are Indian citizens. Over 40 passengers are citizens of the United States and some are Canadian citizens, Sputnik News reported.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters that Washington was “closely monitoring” the situation. His comments came amid the tension between the US and Russia.
Aleksey Siorpas, minister of transport of Russia’s Magadan Region, said that the passengers were taken to a school near the airport. Women with children and pregnant women were taken to the dormitory of a medical college, he said.
“Now, people are happy, we visited the accommodation centres today,” Sputnik News quoted an unidentified official as saying. “Everyone is happy. Let’s hope that they will leave with good impressions of the city of Magadan.”