Hundreds of Canadians board plane in Wuhan, China

Hundreds of Canadians board plane in Wuhan, China

Hundreds of Canadians board plane in Wuhan, China

The Canadians were scheduled to fly out of China on a government-chartered plane early Thursday morning local time, but Francois-Philippe Champagne says crosswinds closed the narrow window of time that China has allowed for worldwide evacuations out of the country.

After the euphoria of finding his family's names on a Canadian government list for flight out came the chaotic journey to the airport in Wuhan. The letter said a flight is to depart from the city's global airport early Thursday morning.

Zhang drove Millward to the airport, and they entered through the wrong door.

Champagne said that when he asked to speak with his Chinese counterpart while dealing with how to bring hundreds of Canadians home, he received a call within 12 hours and the pair spoke for 40 minutes.

Champagne says almost 400 Canadians have asked Ottawa for help leaving Wuhan, which the Chinese government has locked down to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

"We want to get people as quickly as possible out of China", he said.

So far, nobody who was aboard the flight has exhibited any symptoms, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said. "But very excited, and know we're safe here".

France, Britain, Spain and the United States and others have already evacuated some nationals from Wuhan on specially chartered flights.

Hundreds of people in Wuhan have begun boarding the flight that will take them out of the centre of the new coronavirus outbreak and back to their families and friends in Canada. "That is the safest way of ensuring you are on time".

Canadian Forces personnel load luggage onto a bus for Canadians who had been evacuated from China on an American charter plane due to the outbreak of novel Coronavirus. REUTERS
Coronavirus live updates: Government still waiting on Chinese approval to evacuate Canadians

The new coronavirus has sickened more than 28,000 and killed 563 in China since the outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization in December.

The foreign affairs minister denied Canada's tense relationship with China over the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was affecting Ottawa's evacuation efforts, which have been noticeably slower than the USA and some other countries.

About 20 people have contracted the virus so far.

The flight is slated to stop to refuel in Vancouver before heading to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where it is expected to land early Friday.

She said the evacuees have been under a "tremendous amount of stress", noting some were separated from their children or had to leave others behind.

Fabic, of Mississauga, Ont., said Ottawa had reached out to ask him if he wanted to join his daughter.

He said he was emotional after seeing the letter.

The assertions, first outlined in an initial notice last month, have not been proven in court and the federal government has yet to file a defence.

"The hardest thing is going to be trying to keep them entertained without letting them just spend the entire time on our cellphones", Millward said. "I'll get to see her and hug her and play with her".

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