No hope in sight for South Africans stranded at airports abroad

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Passengers wearing face masks.
Passengers wearing face masks.
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South Africans stranded abroad should not expect evacuation any time soon.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said it was doing everything possible to assist South Africans stuck at transit airports after their connecting flights were cancelled ahead of the government-imposed national lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

About 150 passengers were left stranded at Heathrow Airport in London on Thursday.

Cancelled

Krushanka Sewsenker said her brother Nivash had arrived at the airport only to be told that the flight to South Africa had been cancelled because South Africa's airports would be closed to passenger air traffic at midnight on Thursday.

"Some of them had come from Los Angeles. They work on a cruise liner. None of them were aware that their flight would be cancelled mid-air," said Sewsenker.

"My brother managed to find and pay for accommodation but he says there are other people who have no money for food or accommodation and they are not allowed to leave the airport."

Dirco spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said although missions abroad were trying to assist those who were stranded, not much could be done in the way of evacuation.

"We are aware of many South Africans stranded in almost every part of the world and the unfortunate part is there’s no flights to South Africa so we have to work with the governments in those countries to see how best we can deal with this."

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