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Samjhota Express service suspended

01 March, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Amid tension between Pakistan and India, the Samjhota Express service was suspended on Thursday, a statement issued by the Foreign Office said. The Samjhota Express – a bi-weekly train – runs from Lahore to India’s Attari.

The suspension of the train service left 16 travellers at the railway station. A total of 21 people had booked tickets for the train, out of which five cancelled their tickets. The remaining passengers were informed of the cancellation.

Immigration officials said due to the suspension of the Samjhota Express, the travellers would be sent to India via road through the Wagah border. Preparations for the departure of visiting Indians whose visas expired on Thursday, are being made, they added.

The FO said the train service will resume as soon as the security situation improves between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan’s airspace also remained closed for a second day on Thursday amid tensions with India. All flight operations across the country will remain suspended till 5am on Friday, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

The CAA clarified that the earlier notification which mentioned that the airspace had been closed ‘until 2359HRS of February 28’ was as per the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) which is 5am PST on March 1.

“Since the existing NOTAM is effective until 2359HRS of February 28, Pakistan airspace shall remain closed. Please stay in touch with your airlines for timely update on any further changes,” the CAA tweeted.
The temporary closure of air space over Pakistan snarled air traffic, especially between Asia and Europe, though some airlines adjusted by rerouting their flights.

In Bangkok, an important and busy hub for transcontinental flights, thousands of travellers were stranded. Bangkok airport officials said over 4,000 travellers were affected. Those needing help were getting access to accommodations and alternative travel arrangements, they said, though some of those stranded complained they were getting no help at all.

The terminal was so crowded that the chief of Thailand’s immigration police, Surachate Hakparn, tweeted a warning to “Please spare your time for your trip!”

The disruptions marked an unhappy end to a month-long tropical holiday for a group of 25 Danish students unable to board a connecting flight in Bangkok. “The guard over there just said we have to go down to the basement to sleep. So we can’t get any help or information,” said Sara Bjerregaard Larsen, 21.

Thai Airways says it had rerouted flights to Europe outside Pakistani air space. Malaysia Airlines also said in a travel advisory on its web site that it was avoiding air space over Pakistan and northern India ‘until further notice’.

India also suspended flights though some of its northern airports on Wednesday. Those facilities were back to normal on Thursday, but flights both to the US and Europe out of New Delhi were affected.

Air China canceled its flight Thursday from Beijing to the Islamabad. According to an employee of the airline’s publicity office in Beijing, the status of other flights would be decided later.

The closing of Pakistan’s airspace saw Gulf Arab airlines, which serve as a link between East and West in global travel, rapidly reshuffle their flights.

In the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, civil aviation authorities immediately halted their flights to Pakistan. Airlines in those countries include the long-haul carriers Etihad, Emirates and Gulf Air.

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