New York: The US has started airlifting American nationals from India who were stranded because of the coronavirus clampdown.
The first of a series of flights was to have started on Saturday, according to an email sent by the State Department to Americans in India that was seen by IANS.
The chartered planes will fly from New Delhi to San Francisco and from Mumbai to Atlanta.
Last month, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ian Brownle said that about 1,500 Americans in the New Delhi area, between 600 and 700 in the Mumbai area and 300 to 400 elsewhere had expressed interest in returning home.
The State Department issued a "Level 4" alert last month advising its citizens not to travel internationally and asking those abroad to return home.
The email warned: "We do not know for how long these flights will continue," and added that they "may be their best option for returning to the United States in the near term".
However, it also said that "we encourage all US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who wish to return to the US to evaluate their options and risks".
The email indicated that green card-holders and visa-holders could also be included in the flights.
It said that the flights on chartered planes Mumbai was to start this weekend and go to Atlanta.
The flights from Mumbai are for Americans in southern and western parts of India and ground transportation to Mumbai from Goa, Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Valsad and Pune.
US consulates in Chennai and Hyderabad were working to arrange domestic charter flights for Americans to get to Mumbai.
The email said that the New Delhi flights are for those in northern and eastern states and the US was planning flights from Kolkata, Dehradun, Amritsar, and Chandigarh to connect to San Francisco charter.
It added that it was planning to run buses from Jaipur, Ludhiana and Dharamshala to New Delhi.
The State Department has launched a world-wide programme to bring citizens home.
It began running chartered flights from Bangladesh last week and had earlier evacuated a person who was sick from Bhutan.
BY ARUL LOUIS
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