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Indonesia locates black boxes of plane that crashed into sea with 62 onboard

Indonesian authorities on Sunday located the black boxes of the Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the sea soon after taking off from the capital, Jakarta, as human body parts and pieces of the plane were retrieved.

The Boeing 737-500 with 62 passengers and crew was headed on a domestic flight to Pontianak in West Kalimantan on Saturday before it disappeared from radar screens four minutes after takeoff.

Indonesia National Transport Safety Committee (KNKT) chief Soerjanto Tjahjono said the locations of Flight SJ 182’s two black boxes had been identified.

“Hopefully, we can retrieve them soon,” said military chief Hadi Tjahjanto, without giving an estimated time frame.

The search will continue into the night, a search and rescue official said, but efforts will be limited to sonar scans by boats.

There were no clues yet as to what caused the crash — the first major air crash in Indonesia since 189 passengers and crew were killed in 2018 when a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max also plunged into the Java Sea soon after takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Even before the latest crash, more people had died in air cashes in Indonesia than in any other country over the past decade, according to Aviation Safety Network’s database.

Body parts, clothing retrieved

Pieces of wreckage were brought to Jakarta’s port by rescuers, including the plane’s altimeter radar, emergency chute and a piece that was suspected to have come off the bottom part of the plane’s tail, KNKT official Nurcahyo Utomo said.

One twisted piece of metal was painted in Sriwijaya Air’s blue and red colours. Authorities said they came from a depth of 23 metres near a group of islands off the Jakarta coast.

Indonesian authorities said they had also retrieved body parts and clothing.

Police asked families to provide information such as dental records and DNA samples to help identify bodies.

Indonesian Navy divers take part in the search for the crashed Sriwijaya Air passenger jet in the waters off Java island, Indonesia, on Sunday. (Achmad Ibrahim/The Associated Press)

The plane had 12 crew and 50 passengers on board, all Indonesians, including 10 children.

President Joko Widodo, speaking at the palace in Bogor, expressed “deep condolences” over the disaster and urged the public to pray that the missing people could be found.

Distraught relatives waited in Pontianak, about 740 kilometres from Jakarta, for news of their loved ones. At Jakarta’s main airport, a crisis centre was set up for families.

“We feel powerless, we can only wait and hope to get any information soon,” Irfansyah Riyanto, who had five relatives on the flight, told reporters.

A sudden descent

Tracking service Flightradar24 said the aircraft took off at 2:36 p.m. local time (0736 GMT) and climbed to reach 10,900 feet within four minutes. It then began a steep descent and stopped transmitting data 21 seconds later.

There were no immediate clues on what caused the sudden descent. Most air accidents are caused by myriad factors that can take months to establish, safety experts say.

A Transport Ministry spokesperson said air traffic control had asked the pilot why the plane was heading northwest instead of on its expected flight path seconds before it disappeared.

The pilots had decades of experience between them, with the flight captain reported to be a former air force pilot, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The Sriwijaya Air plane was a nearly 27-year-old Boeing 737-500, much older than Boeing’s problem-plagued 737 MAX model. Older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the stall-prevention system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.

“We are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support them during this difficult time,” Boeing said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers and their families.”

WATCH | Authorities investigating after Indonesian plane goes missing:

The plane, a Boeing 737-500 carrying 62 people, was on a 90-minute flight from Jakarta to the provincial capital on Borneo when it dropped off radar. The Indonesian navy says the co-ordinates have been found and given to all navy vessels in the area. 2:35

Founded in 2003, Jakarta-based Sriwijaya Air group flies largely within Indonesia’s sprawling archipelago. The budget airline has had a solid safety record, with no onboard casualties in four incidents recorded on the Aviation Safety Network database.

In 2007, the European Union banned all Indonesian airlines following a series of crashes and reports of deteriorating oversight and maintenance since deregulation in the late 1990s. The restrictions were fully lifted in 2018.

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Indonesia officials say rescuers have found body parts, debris from plane crash

Indonesian rescuers pulled body parts, pieces of clothing and scraps of metal from the Java Sea early Sunday morning, a day after a Boeing 737-500 with 62 people onboard crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, officials said.

Officials were hopeful they were homing in on the wreckage of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 after sonar equipment detected a signal from the aircraft.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters that authorities have launched massive search efforts after identifying “the possible location of the crash site.”

“These pieces were found by the SAR team between Lancang Island and Laki Island,” National Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito said in a statement.

Indonesian military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said teams on the Rigel navy ship equipped with a remote-operated vehicle had detected a signal from the aircraft, which fit the coordinates from the last contact made by the pilots before the plane went missing.

Search and rescue teams conduct operations at sea where the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 is suspected to have crashed on Sunday. (Adek Berry/AFP via Getty Images)

“We have immediately deployed our divers from navy’s elite unit to determine the finding to evacuate the victims,” Tjahjanto said.

More than 12 hours since the Boeing plane operated by the Indonesian airline lost contact, little is known about what caused the crash.

Fishermen in the area around Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta’s coast, reported hearing an explosion around 2:30 p.m. local time Saturday.

“We heard something explode, we thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water,” fisherman Solihin, who goes by one name, told The Associated Press by phone.

“It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. So it is difficult to see around clearly. But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat.”

Sumadi said Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2:36 p.m. local time. It disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 8,839 metres, he said.

There were 62 people on board, including seven children and three babies.

Relatives of passengers on board missing Sriwijaya Air flight 182 wait for news at the Supadio airport in Pontianak on Indonesia’s Borneo island on Saturday. (Louis Anderson/AFP via Getty Images)

Authorities established two crisis centres, one at airport and one at port. Families gathered to wait for news of loved ones.

On social media, people began circulating the flight manifest with photos and videos of those who were listed as passengers. One video shows a woman with her children waving goodbye while walking through the airport.

Plane was ‘airworthy’

Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane, which is 26 years old and previously used by airlines in the United States, was airworthy. He told reporters Saturday that the plane had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.

“Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy,” Jauwena told a news conference. He said the plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.

Indonesian soldiers stand near a crisis centre set up at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, on Saturday. (Tatan Syuflana/The Associated Press)

In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. The plane involved in Saturday’s incident did not have the automated flight-control system that played a role in the Lion Air crash and another crash of a 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia five months later, leading to the grounding of the MAX 8 for 20 months.

The Lion Air crash was Indonesia’s worst airline disaster since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda airlines flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.

Sriwijaya Air has only has several minor incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when landing plane went off runway due to a hydraulic issue.

The United States banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, but reversed the decision in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union has previously had similar bans, lifting them in June 2018.

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Indonesian navy says location of missing plane carrying 62 has been found

The Indonesian navy has determined the co-ordinates of a Sriwijaya Air plane carrying 62 people that went missing Saturday after taking off from the capital of Jakarta, navy official Abdul Rasyid said.

“The co-ordinates have been found and have been given to all Navy vessels in the area,” he told reporters.

The passenger jet lost contact with air traffic controllers just minutes after taking off from Indonesia’s capital on a domestic flight, the transportation minister said.

Budi Karya Sumadi said Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2:36 p.m. The Boeing 737-500 disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 29,000 feet (8,839 meters), he said.

56 passengers, 6 crew members

Boeing released a two-line statement saying it was aware of media reports from Jakarta and was gathering more information.

A statement released by the airline said the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island. There were 56 passengers and six crew members onboard.

Irawati said in a statement that a search and rescue operation was underway in co-ordination with the National Search and Rescue Agency and the National Transportation Safety Committee.

Local media reports said fishermen spotted metal objects believed to be parts of a plane on Saturday afternoon in the Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta.

This radar image shows the flight path of Indonesian Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 before it dropped off radar on Saturday. (Flightradar24.com via AP)

Television footage showed relatives and friends of people aboard the plane weeping, praying and hugging each other as they waited at Jakarta’s airport and Pontianak’s airport.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.

In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.

Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.

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Sign of the times in plane business as Amazon buys 11 no longer needed jets from WestJet and Delta

Amazon is buying four jets from WestJet and seven from Delta as the e-commerce giant moves to beef up its delivery fleet at a time when passenger jets are no longer so in demand.

In a release, the company said the 11 jets, which are all Boeing 767-300s, are all currently set up to carry passengers but are in the process of being converted to carry only cargo. The WestJet jets will join Amazon’s fleet some time this year and the Delta ones in 2022.

“Our goal is to continue delivering for customers across the U.S. in the way that they expect from Amazon, and purchasing our own aircraft is a natural next step toward that goal,” Sarah Rhoads, vice-president of Amazon Global Air, said in a release.

The 767 was a key jet for WestJet in its evolution as it was the airline’s only wide-body jet, but the airline has recently decommissioned its entire fleet of them and moved to larger 787 Dreamliners for many long-haul flights.

“Last year our 767s were removed from service as we gauged market interest for the procurement of the 767 fleet,” spokesperson Morgan Bell told CBC News in a statement. “We are pleased they found a home with Amazon.”

The four jets represents WestJet’s entire fleet of 767s.

Amazon building delivery network

Amazon launched its own air cargo fleet in 2016 and, prior to Tuesday’s news, the company leased 80 planes, but the move is the first time the company has bought their own.

The company uses parcel services such as UPS and FedEx for its current deliveries, but is moving to build its own delivery network as it increasingly views itself as a competitor to those services, not a partner.

Amazon owns tens of thousands of its own delivery trucks, and has been experimenting with its own fleet of autonomous delivery drones. But those are for the last leg of the delivery journey — it still relies on planes to get packages across vast distances, quickly.

Tuesday’s news is the first purchase of jets, but also the second time in the pandemic that the company has added to its number of planes.

In June of 2020, the company leased a dozen 767s from Air Transport Services Group, Inc.

Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed. 

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Former Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Tyson Brummett Among Four Killed in Utah Plane Crash

Former Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Tyson Brummett Among Four Killed in Utah Plane Crash | Entertainment Tonight

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Turbulence, warnings came before Pakistan plane crash killed 97, survivor says

When the plane jolted violently, Mohammad Zubair thought it was turbulence. Then the pilot came on the intercom to warn that the landing could be “troublesome.”

Moments later, the Pakistan International Airlines flight crashed into a crowded neighbourhood near Karachi’s international airport, killing 97 people, all of whom are believed to be passengers and crew members. Zubair was one of just two surviving passengers.

Meeran Yousaf, the provincial health department spokesperson, said only 19 of the bodies from Friday’s crash have been identified and that most of the bodies were badly burned. Eight people on the ground were injured, including four who are still hospitalized, and all residents are accounted for, she said.

The plane crashed near Jinnah International Airport, in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony. PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafiz Khan said the aircraft destroyed or heavily damaged 18 homes.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said the Airbus A230 was carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members. The only other survivor of the crash was Zafar Masood, a bank executive.

People in Karachi carry the coffins of husband and wife who were killed in the plane crash. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

In a telephone interview from his hospital bed, Zubair, a mechanical engineer, said flight PK8308 had taken off on time from the eastern city of Lahore at 1 p.m. It was a smooth, uneventful flight until the aircraft began its descent near Karachi shortly before 3 p.m.

“Suddenly the plane jerked violently, once and then again,” said Zubair. The aircraft turned and the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. They were experiencing engine trouble and the landing could be “troublesome,” the pilot said. That was the last thing Zubair remembered until he woke up in a scene of chaos.

“I saw so much smoke and fire. I heard people crying, children crying.”

People are seen on Friday standing next to the debris of the plane in a residential area near Karachi’s airport. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

He crawled his way out of the smoke and rubble, and was eventually pulled from the ground and rushed into an ambulance.

Pakistan had only earlier this week resumed domestic flights ahead of Eid-al Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Many of the passengers aboard the flight were families returning home for the holiday, said Science Minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry.

Between the coronavirus pandemic and the plane crash, this year has been a “catastrophe,” he said.

(CBC News)

“What is most unfortunate and sad is whole families have died, whole families who were travelling together for the Eid holiday,” he told The Associated Press.

Social media and local news reports said Zara Abid, an actor and an award-winning model, was among those killed. A senior banker, his wife and three young children were also reportedly killed. Shabaz Hussein, whose mother died in the crash, told The Associated Press he identified her body at a local hospital and was waiting to take it away for burial.

Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because of the coronavirus, and when flights resumed every other seat was left vacant to promote social distancing.

Southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, is the epicentre of Pakistan’s outbreak, with nearly 20,000 of the country’s more than 50,000 cases. Pakistan has reported 1,101 deaths from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.

‘We have lost engine’

A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed to land and was circling to make another attempt.

“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” the pilot said.

“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.

Mayday call issued

“Sir, mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from site of the wreckage, an airline spokesperson said on Saturday.

PIA chair Arshad Malik told reporters on Friday in Karachi that an independent inquiry would be held but said the aircraft was in good working order.

Airworthiness documents showed the plane last received a government check on Nov. 1, 2019. PIA’s chief engineer signed a separate certificate April 28 saying all maintenance had been conducted. It said “the aircraft is fully airworthy and meets all the safety” standards.

Ownership records for the Airbus A320 showed China Eastern Airlines flew the plane from 2004 until 2014. The plane then entered PIA’s fleet, leased from GE Capital Aviation Services.

Airbus said the plane had logged 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flights as of Friday. The plane had two CFM56-5B4 engines.

Airbus said it would provide technical assistance to investigators in France and Pakistan, as well as the airline and engine manufacturers.

“We at Airbus are deeply saddened by the tragic news of flight (hash)PK8303,” tweeted Executive Director Guillaume Faury. “In aviation, we all work hard to prevent this. Airbus will provide full assistance to the investigating authorities.”

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Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane crashes near Karachi

A passenger plane belonging to state-run airline Pakistan International Airlines has crashed near the southern port city of Karachi, according to Abdul Sattar Kokhar, spokesperson for the country’s civil aviation authority.

There were no immediate reports on the number of casualties. The aircraft arriving from the eastern city of Lahore was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew members, Kokhar said.

Witnesses said the Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport. The residential area on the edge of the airport known as Model Colony is a poor area and heavily congested.

A resident of the area, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the aircraft circle at least three times, appearing to try to land at the airport before it crashed into several houses.

Police and military had cordoned off the area.

Local television reports showed smoke coming from the direction of the airport. Ambulances were on their way to the airport.

Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the crash. The flight typically takes an hour and a half to travel from the northeastern city of Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province, to Karachi.

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Small plane explosion kills 8 in Philippines, including 1 Canadian

A medical evacuation plane exploded in a ball of flames during takeoff on Sunday in the Philippine capital, killing all eight passengers and crew on board, officials said.

The plane, which was carrying six Filipino crew members, an American and a Canadian, was bound for Japan on a medical mission when it caught fire near the end of the main runway, Manila airport general manager Ed Monreal said.

Firetrucks and rescue personnel rushed and doused the aircraft with foam to try to extinguish the flames, he said.

“Unfortunately, there were no survivors,” Monreal told a late-night news conference.

He declined to identify the victims until their families were informed and said other details about the flight and the passengers were unclear.

WATCH | Amateur video from the scene of the crash:

Amateur video shows plumes of smoke rising from the wreckage after a plane explosion in Manila late Sunday. One Canadian is among the victims. Video credit: Jhun Gil Siriban Aguhob. 0:48

Global Affairs Canada said the federal government is offering the Canadian’s family its consular services.

“Our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of the Canadian who died in a plane crash in the Philippines,” said spokesperson Anabel Lindblad

“We offer them our deepest condolences.”

The plane, owned by a Philippines-registered charter service Lionair, had been bound for Haneda, Japan, but burst into flames at the end of the runway around 8 p.m. local time, Manila’s main airport said.

Indonesian carrier Lion Air issued a statement making clear that it is unrelated to Manila-based Lionair.

Nearly three hours after the accident, the bodies of the victims were still inside the wreckage. Airport authorities were waiting for police investigators to examine the crash scene before retrieving the remains, Monreal said.

The airport’s main runway was closed due to the accident. The airport had only minimal staff due to air travel restrictions that are part of a month-long lockdown imposed by the government in the main northern Philippine region of Luzon, where Manila, the capital, lies, to fight the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

Debris of the crashed plane seen at Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, on Sunday. (Manila International Airport Authority Media Affairs Division/Handout via Reuters)

A Korean Airlines flight bound for Manila was diverted to Clark International Airport, north of Manila, due to the incident, Monreal said, adding that the main runway would be reopened as soon as the wreckage was removed.

Donaldo Mendoza, the deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said the aircraft was deemed “airworthy” based on records and its pilots were properly certified to fly.

The plane had flown to central Iloilo province Saturday to deliver medical supplies without any incident, Mendoza said.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said the aircraft apparently encountered an unspecified “problem which resulted in a fire” as it rolled to takeoff, adding its chief investigator was on the way to the scene.

Video footage shows the aircraft engulfed in bright-orange flames in the darkness as firefighters scramble to put out the fire by spraying chemical foam while sirens blare.

An investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Authority of the Philippines was underway, MIAA said.

Mendoza said airport tower personnel were horrified to see the plane still rolling on the runway at a point when it should have already taken off, but added it remains unclear what trouble the plane encountered.

“They were really alarmed so they already picked up the hotline just in case, whatever happens, they can immediately call Fire, Crash and Rescue,” Mendoza said.

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Plane carrying Canadians who left China amid coronavirus outbreak lands at CFB Trenton

No one on board the airlift from Wuhan, China that landed at CFB Trenton in Ontario Friday morning showed symptoms of the coronavirus or any other illness during the flight, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today.

The plane left Wuhan on Thursday and stopped in Vancouver to refuel before carrying on to the Ontario military base. 

“Fortunately, no one showed symptoms on the plane, so no one had to disembark at the fuelling station in Vancouver,” Hajdu told host Matt Galloway in an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current.

Megan Millward was on the plane carrying Canadians who left China amid the coronavirus outbreak, she describes her experience. 6:08

Another group of 39 Canadian passengers who travelled on a U.S. government-chartered flight also arrived in Trenton Friday, after transferring to a federal government-chartered plane in Vancouver.

Passengers who returned on both the flights out of Wuhan are now under a 14-day quarantine at the military base to see if they develop symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

Hajdu said the evacuees experienced a “tremendous amount of stress,” anxiety and boredom during the lockdown in Wuhan. Many of them have been separated from their children or have had to leave loved ones behind.

The 176 passengers on board the plane from Wuhan will now enter a 14-day quarantine period at the army base in Ontario. 0:55

Mental health services will be provided on the base, she said, and officials are taking steps to keep people occupied while under quarantine, such as setting up play centres for the kids.

“Although the passengers won’t be interacting with each other, there will be opportunities for them to leave their room and entertain their children, and of course all of that will be co-ordinated with the health officials that are there,” she said.

CFB Trenton is equipped to provide basic care for any passengers who become mildly ill. Those needing a higher level of care will be transported to either Trenton Memorial Hospital or Belleville Memorial. Both hospitals have a combined total of 18 negative-pressure rooms for the isolation of patients.

“We are very prepared,” said Heather Campbell, program director of emergency and primary care with Quinte Health Care.

Campbell said an infectious disease specialist is on call in Kingston “for our immediate referral.”

Megan Millward, who is under quarantine with her husband and two children, told CBC News Network Friday that her family is being permitted to go outside their room on the floor, and outside for exercise.

There were 176 passengers on board the Canadian airlift. Some who had told the government they intended to take the flight were not on board; an official said some were not allowed to board due to medical reasons — not necessarily the coronavirus — and others may have changed their minds at the last minute.

Border controls ‘least-effective’ way to prevent spread

Hajdu said evacuees undergo an initial screening before being shown to their rooms, where they’ll have time to rest before a more comprehensive assessment. They will be continually monitored by medical officials at the base and will be transferred to a local hospital if they develop any symptoms.

The National looks inside the quarantine zone at CFB Trenton where the Canadians airlifted out of Wuhan, China, will stay for two weeks. 2:12

Meals will be delivered to the rooms and social interactions will be limited.

Some countries, including the United States, have restricted entry to travellers from China.

Hajdu said the World Health Organization (WHO) has given recommendations on measures to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

“Border controls are the least-effective way to contain the spread,” she said, adding that screening, sharing information and following medical advice are the best measures.

Toting Peppa Pig dolls, Richard Fabic to join daughter for quarantine period in Trenton, Ont. 6:07

WHO officials in Geneva provided updated numbers on the spread of the coronavirus Friday, reporting that China now has 31,211 cases and 637 deaths. Outside of China, 270 cases have been reported in 24 countries, along with one death.

Seven cases have been reported in Canada — three in Ontario and four in British Columbia.

WHO officials said there is a dire need for medical supplies like masks and respirators in China and are asking other countries not to “hoard” their supplies.

‘I’m going to sleep for 20 hours straight’

Myriam Larouche, a 25-year-old from L’Ascension, Que., told The Canadian Press that the stretch from Wuhan to Vancouver was “pretty long” but most people on the plane slept through much of the flight.

“I think I’m going to sleep for 20 hours straight,” Larouche said, adding that the last few days have been stressful.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said there was a “small number of no-shows” at the airport in China because some people changed their minds about leaving.

Public health officials say the overall risk to people in Canada from the novel coronavirus is low.

WATCH | What we actually know about the coronavirus:

Information about the coronavirus outbreak is spreading fast, but what do we actually know about the illness? CBC News medical contributor and family physician Dr. Peter Lin breaks down the facts about what it is, where it came from, how it spreads and what you can do to protect yourself. 5:10

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Canada secures plane to repatriate Canadians in China’s coronavirus-affected region

Canada has secured a charter aircraft to bring home Canadians stranded in the coronavirus-affected region of China — but people who are already infected will not be allowed to board.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Chinese authorities will not allow anyone who may be infected to get on the plane.

“No cases, and no sick people, will be leaving that city,” Tam said during an appearance before the House of Commons health committee Wednesday.

Tam said China has diagnostic tools to determine if someone is infected. Because the incubation period is anywhere from one to 14 days, she said there are “meticulous” measures in place to isolate individuals from other passengers if they develop symptoms during the flight.

Asked if Canada is considering asking people on the flight to self-isolate upon their return to Canada as a precaution, Tam said it’s crucial to secure the public’s full cooperation with measures to contain the virus. That means avoiding stigmatization and any measures that go beyond scientifically sound measures to protect public safety, she said.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Chinese authorities will not allow anyone who may be infected with coronavirus to board a plane out of Wuhan. 1:40

Saying public health authorities have to strike a balance between public safety and individual liberty, Tam said “restricting someone’s freedom, essentially to be moving about in a community, after return … I think that is not something we would take lightly.”

Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu have maintained the risk to Canadians remains low. Tam said that assessment is based on the small number of cases that have been exported from China, and the fact that the most severe illnesses or deaths resulting from the novel coronavirus have involved older patients with underlying conditions.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced today the government has chartered an aircraft to repatriate Canadians and is now working on the diplomatic front to organize the flight — work which could take several days because the affected region is in a “lockdown.”

He said 160 Canadians have requested consular services to date.

“We have to work with the Chinese authorities to deal with the logistical side of things,” he said, adding that Canada is coordinating with other countries on the process.

Facing criticism from some stranded Canadians about a lack of consular assistance, Champagne insisted that Canada is at the “forefront” of the response.

Champagne said Global Affairs also has issued a new travel advisory telling people to avoid all non-essential travel to China. Earlier this week, the department warned against all travel to Hubei province, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Air Canada announced today it was suspending direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai until Feb. 29.

Champagne said he could not confirm whether any of the Canadians requesting repatriation are sick, or are showing symptoms of the virus.

Hajdu said she could not state yet if returning Canadians might be required to go into quarantine. She said the government will take steps to protect the health and safety of Canadians at home and abroad, but could not specify what those measures will involve.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Health Minister Patty Hajdu provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak in China, including that a plane has been secured but now awaits logistical and consular details to be worked out. 2:11

“Part of the process now is figuring out exactly what our protocols will be when we return Canadians that wish to come home,” she said.

“We’re working very closely with our U.S. counterparts, who obviously have some experience in this and have set up some best practices, and we’ll be following their lead very closely and we’ll have more to say as those processes unfold.”

Hajdu said not every Canadian in China requesting consular services wants to come home. Some need help with getting to other regions of China or securing supplies, she said.

Canada is cutting the number of consular staff in China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Global Affairs Canada announced the reduced staffing at its diplomatic missions in China on Twitter, and in Chinese on the Beijing embassy’s social media pages Wednesday. Canadians who need emergency consular assistance are being told to contact the emergency watch and response centre in Ottawa.

More than 6,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported globally — the vast majority of them in China — with 132 related deaths.

Some Canadians trapped in Wuhan, China, due to strict travel restrictions say they’re safe but feeling abandoned by their consular officials.

Consular offices were closed Saturday through Tuesday due to the Chinese New Year.

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is looking at ways to help Canadians stuck in China.

“We are working very closely with our consular officials in China. We’re listening and concerned about the Canadians who are right now in the affected zone,” he said.

Application centres closed

“We will look at what we can do. There are many countries looking at different ways to help out. It is a complex situation, but we’re doing everything we can to support Canadians.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the situation regarding Canadians stranded in China is complex, but the government is working with other countries and consular officials to find a solution. 0:20

Patterson Wu, a Vancouver-based Canadian citizen now in Wuhan, said he tried without success for days to reach a consular official. When he finally made contact, the official told him there was no evacuation plan at the moment, and referred him to a Chinese website listing various hospitals.

“I tried to phone them for many days now, but they were on holiday while we were still stuck in the city with the epidemic happening in the country,” he told CBC News Network.

“It kind of felt like finally I got something, but at the same time, I kind of felt like, ‘This is all I got?'”

Another Canadian from Toronto said he is frustrated with the lack of government help in bringing home his 15-month-old daughter, who is visiting grandparents in Wuhan.

“I’m certainly scared, worried, frustrated with the lack of response that I hear. I feel helpless. There’s not much I can do,” Richard Fabic told CBC Toronto on Tuesday.  “I missed her before, but now I miss her more.”

All visa application centres in mainland China are temporarily closed, and consular offices will be providing only basic services (such as passport renewals) and emergency services such as medical assistance, emergency benefits and missing persons.

‘It’s very scary here for anyone stuck in a foreign country,’ says Patterson Wu.  6:55

According to the embassy’s post, the immigration service will continue to provide services and prioritize the processing of travel documents for customers and permanent residents “who need to travel urgently to Canada for humanitarian and compassionate reasons.”

Global Affairs Canada’s emergency response centre can be reached by phone at 613-996-8885 or by email sos@international.gc.ca.

The government has launched a website dedicated to the coronavirus and has set up an information hotline.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday it will convene the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee tomorrow to determine whether the current outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

During a news conference in Geneva Tuesday, Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Emergencies Program, praised the Chinese government’s “laser focus” and committed efforts to control the outbreak and protect public health.

“The challenge is great, but the response has been massive,” he said.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the virus’s origins and how it spreads.

Ryan acknowledged the challenge media outlets face in communicating accurate risk information and holding authorities and institutions to account.

All of the 15 countries that have imported cases, which include Canada, must be at “full alert,” he said.

Asked if countries evacuating their citizens from the affected regions could spread the virus further, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said every country can make its own decisions but must prepare for the arrival of new cases. Those countries need to have a “thorough understanding” of their actions, he said.

The House of Commons health committee began hearings on the government’s response to the outbreak Wednesday afternoon. Scheduled to appear are Stephen Lucas, the deputy health minister, Public Health Agency of Canada President Tina Namiesniowski and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Theresa Tam is scheduled to appear at the House of Commons health committee Wednesday afternoon. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Several countries have started repatriating their citizens from the affected region in China.

A Japanese flight carrying 206 evacuees home included four people with coughs and fevers. The three men and one woman were taken to a Tokyo hospital on separate ambulances for treatment and further medical checks.

A chartered flight also landed in California today carrying 200 Americans from China.

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