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(LEAD) First S. Korean evacuation plane departs Wuhan with 367 citizens aboard

All News 06:39 January 31, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with official's remarks, other details in paras 3-4, 7-10; ADDS photo)

SEOUL/WUHAN, China, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean evacuation plane departed the new coronavirus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan Friday with 367 South Koreans aboard, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

The chartered Korean Air flight left Wuhan Tianhe International Airport only hours after it arrived there to airlift the South Koreans amid a lockdown on the city.

Korean Air flight 9883 takes off from Incheon International Airport for Wuhan, China, on Jan. 30, 2020. The chartered B747-400 passenger jet departed the city the next day carrying 367 South Korean nationals aboard. (Yonhap)

A South Korean government official said the departure was delayed because both Chinese and South Korean authorities conducted thorough quarantine checks on the passengers.

Members of a South Korean government response team and Korean Air crew members were also returning on the same flight, which is scheduled to arrive at Seoul's Gimpo airport.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

More than 8,000 cases of the pneumonia-causing virus have been reported worldwide, including six in South Korea. In China, it has left 170 people dead.

South Korea had originally planned to dispatch two planes on Thursday to bring home some 700 nationals. The Chinese government has so far given approval for only one.

The returning citizens are asymptomatic, according to the government, and will be sent to two public facilities in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, and Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, in central South Korea.

Some angry residents of Asan threw eggs at visiting Minister of Interior and Safety Chin Young on Thursday to protest the decision.

The evacuees are expected to remain at the two facilities for a 14-day incubation period.

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