Coronavirus: British women stranded in Delhi airport living on crisps and sleeping on chairs

Yahoo News UK
Diane Want, 63 and Sue Smith, 73, are stuck in Delhi airport. (Terry Want)
Diane Want, 63 and Sue Smith, 73, are stuck in Delhi airport. (Terry Want)

A pair of British women stranded in Delhi airport following the coronavirus outbreak have been left sleeping on chairs and eating snacks donated from kind-hearted people as they struggle to return to the UK.

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Diane Want, 63 and Sue Smith, 73, travelled to India for a month-long trip at the start of March and were due to return on 1 April, but have found themselves stranded.

The pair, from Norwich, are hoping that the UK government will help get them home, but until they can get a flight back they are stuck sleeping in Delhi airport on chairs, using makeshift masks and eating snacks donated by people.

Speaking to Yahoo News UK from the airport on Thursday, Want said the Foreign Office had sorted out some food for them but other than that they had been eating snacks like crisps.

The women are sleeping in the airport terminal and eating snacks. (Diane Want)
The women are sleeping in the airport terminal and eating snacks. (Diane Want)
The women travelled to the airport following advice to return home, but were too late and all flights had stopped. (Diane Want)
The women travelled to the airport following advice to return home, but were too late and all flights had stopped. (Diane Want)

With connectivity poor at the airport, she said she had borrowed other travellers’ phones to call people in the UK but they still didn’t know when they would be able to get home.

“I wasn’t allowed in the shop here, they ushered me out which I understand because they’re all fearful of us foreigners,” she said.

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She said she had seen planes taking travellers from other countries back home, but didn’t know when they would be able to leave.

“We just need to get home really,” she added. “We’re very vulnerable here.”

The women have seen other travellers get flights home but currently can't get back to the UK. (Picture: Diane Want)
The women have seen other travellers get flights home but currently can't get back to the UK. (Picture: Diane Want)
Diane Want said they were stuck in the airport and didn't know when they could get a flight home. (Diane Want)
Diane Want said they were stuck in the airport and didn't know when they could get a flight home. (Diane Want)

The women had been staying in Shillong in northern India when the advice was given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for Britons head home, but by the time they managed to get to Delhi airport flights had stopped.

Want’s son Terry told Yahoo News UK: “They have been in the terminal since Monday, they are safe at the moment as military are within the airport. However food is scarce and to date they have eaten off the back of the generosity of kind strangers.

“The FCO and the office of our local MP Chloe Smith have seemingly been working very hard to find solutions or to progress the situation. They are currently surveying when flights paths can reopen or if they can liaise with another embassy to get them on a flight.”

He said the FCO was also looking at the possibility of accommodation if there continued to be problems getting flights.

Global coronavirus cases and deaths. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics
Global coronavirus cases and deaths. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics

“Of course staying in an airport terminal is distressing and doesn't really provide what anyone would consider to be a comforting setting,” he added.

“Lack of sleep, food and the stress of situation is taking a toll. While they have tried to retain high spirits with no progress for some days and a changing mood within the airport, and with a changing day-by-day status within the country, the uncertainty has them and ourselves very worried.

“These are uncharted waters, and so it seems the UK government have been trying very hard to make their situation better.

“However it seems the lockdown in India has restricted the movements and options available to UK embassy workers within India.”

In a statement, the Foreign Office (FCO) said: “We recognise British tourists abroad are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world – often with very little or no notice.

“The FCO is working around the clock to support British travellers in this situation to allow them to come back to the UK.

“The government is seeking to keep key transit routes open as long as possible and is in touch with international partners and the airline industry to make this happen.”

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