Mumbai/Kochi, July 5 :
A special Air India flight with 183 people on board, including the 46 nurses from Kerala who were freed by insurgents in Iraq, arrived here Saturday noon, officials said.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy reached the airport to receive the nurses, where a special immigration desk has been set up.
Sandra Sebastian, one of the nurses, told the media at Kochi airport that she was very scared when they were taken away by the insurgents.
“… very afraid… will not go back,” she said in broken English.
The plane had earlier landed in Mumbai for refuelling and for taking aboard food for the passengers.
It will fly to Hyderabad and finally to New Delhi, Air India officials said.
Chandy earlier said that at one point of time, he had lost all hope as the plane did not get permission to land in Erbil because of strong winds.
He thanked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for all her efforts to bring back the nurses to India.
The fate of the 46 nurses from Kerala in strife-torn Iraq had kept the entire nation on tenterhooks for the past few days.
Reports said many nurses protested at Erbil airport in the capital of Kurdistan, saying they won’t board the plane unless they are paid their four months’ salary arrears.
Indian officials persuaded them, and they finally agreed.
Meanwhile, a UAE-based Indian businessman has offered the 46 freed nurses jobs in hospitals he owns across the Gulf country, Nepal, Bhutan and India.
B.R. Shetty made the offer through advertisements in Kerala newspapers. He asked the nurses to contact his office if interested.