New Delhi: Lauding the efforts made by the Air India for safely evacuating more than 600 Indian nationals from the coronavirus-hit Wuhan province in China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday has written a letter of appreciation to the crew members of the flight.

As per updates, the Prime Minister has also written a letter of appreciation to the health ministry officials involved in the evacuation of citizens of India and Maldives from Wuhan.

“The letter would be handed over to the evacuation team, including Air India crew and Health Ministry officials, by the Minister of State for Civil Aviation,” the PMO statement said.

Following the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, Air India had conducted an emergency evacuation operations from China.

“Despite being aware of the aforementioned severe situation in the region, the Air India sent two B-747 aircraft with teams of Air India as well as teams from Ministry of Health for two consecutive days, on January 31 and February 1, returning the next day,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Air India’s Director of Operations, Captain Amitabh Singh, who was primarily involved in the evacuation Indians from Wuhan, said the operation was really challenging.

“Air India is the second line of defence whether it is a conflict, natural disaster or a disease like this. It has always served the country. It was a challenging operation. We have a team and every department knows its role,” Captain Amitabh Singh told ANI.

He further said it was the first time that Air India got involved in going to the so-called epicentre of the epidemic.

“I was the executive commander of the flight. It was the first time we got involved in going to the so-called epicentre of the epidemic. There was no other aeroplane there. All roads and buildings were empty. It was as if we came to another planet,” he said.

According to hi, a total of 64 people were involved in the entire evacuation operations. These included 30 cabin crew, 8 pilots, 10 commercial staff of Air India and one senior officer from AI CMD Secretariat.

“The passengers were tired and scared. Orders were to fly in, evacuate and fly out, keeping everyone safe. So we had some very good doctors,” Singh added.

A total of 647 Indians and 7 Maldivians were brought back to India in two special flights on February 1 and 2 from Wuhan.