There were over 230 people on the Air India flight.
Stranded passengers of an Air India flight, including children and elderly, found themselves battling language barriers, unfamiliar food, and substandard accommodation after their plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Magadan, Russia.
The Air India flight, a Boeing 777, was travelling from Delhi to San Francisco with 216 passengers and 16 crew members onboard when it developed a technical issue with one of its engines on Tuesday.
Speaking to NDTV via telephone, Gagan, a passenger on the plane, described the situation as challenging, with a lack of clarity and inadequate facilities.
"There are over 230 people. Lots of children and older people. Our bags are still in the aircraft. We were sent on buses to different locations. Some people were sent to a school and are lying on mattresses on the floor. The toilet facilities are not right. Language is a barrier. The food here is very, very different. There's a lot of seafood and non-veg. Some people are just eating bread and soup. Older people running out of medicine," he said.
Despite the difficulties, Gagan said, "They (Russian authorities) have been nice. We have been lucky because we are in a college dorm. We just got Wi-Fi about an hour ago, so we have been able to be in touch with our families."
"But the other place, where some more passengers are present, is a school. They have just moved the benches and people are lying on mattresses in the classroom. There are about 20 people in one room. I heard they couldn't arrange proper food. They were given Coke and bread," he said.
"There was an 88-year-old gentleman next to me on the flight. I don't know what people like him are going through. There is a lady with two infants. She had a really tough time. The food here is mostly non-veg. The authorities here are nice, but there is a language barrier. We are not allowed to move outside. We were told we would be on a flight by this time today," Gagan said.
Air India announced on Wednesday that a replacement plane would be sent from Mumbai to transport the stranded passengers from Magadan to San Francisco. The airline also assured that the passengers were being provided with all necessary support on the ground and that they had been accommodated in local hostels and hotels.
The US State Department said it was keeping an eye on the situation, with the Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel saying that it was likely that there were U.S. citizens on board the flight.
Russia's aviation authority confirmed that it was checking on the plane's technical condition after landing at Magadan airport and had given permission for the alternate flight to land there.
Air India CEO Campbell Wilson defended the airline's use of Russian airspace on Monday, noting the critical role the industry plays in connecting economies, people, and cultures.