Alaska: The flight assigned for evacuating around 240 Americans from Wuhan, due to the coronavirus outbreak, will now land at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County instead of Ontario International Airport, officials said.
The US government had chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the US Consulate in Wuhan, and other US citizens. The plane is making a refueling stop in Alaska before flying on to Southern California, the US Embassy in China said.
Curt Hagman, an Ontario airport commissioner, said the Centers for Disease Control had announced the diversion. “We were prepared but the State Department decided to switch the flight to the airbase," Hagman said.
Wuhan is the epicenter of a new virus that has resulted in more than 100 deaths. The plane left the city before dawn on Wednesday, China time, said an official.
In Anchorage, Alaska, passengers were set to go through customs and Centers for Disease Control screening. “Then they will put them back on the plane and then send them on to their final destination,” said Jim Szczesniak, manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
The passengers are being isolated in the airport’s international terminal, which lies mostly dormant in the winter months. Szczesniak said that the terminal was not connected to the larger and heavily-used domestic flights terminal, and each had separate ventilation systems.
“In the winter time, we have the ability and the luxury of not having any passenger traffic over there, so it’s the perfect area for us to handle this kind of flight,” he said.
Officials at the Ontario airport 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of Los Angeles had been readying facilities to receive and screen the repatriates and temporarily house them for up to two weeks, if the CDC determined it necessary, said David Wert, spokesman for the county of San Bernardino.
In addition to the United States, countries including Japan and South Korea have also planned evacuations.