Contingent of 148 Indian students stuck in Turkey

16 July 2016

India's ministry of external affairs has a job on its hands, as a contingent of 148 students along with officials from the country is stuck in coup-torn Turkey where they had gone for a sports meet.

On 11 July, the 148 Indian students from class 10-12 along with 38 officials flew to Turkey to take part in the World Schools Championship in the town of Trabzon, 1,100 km from Turkey's capital Istanbul.

It makes one wonder what the need was for so many officials almost one for every four students but that of course is another, typically Indian story.

With the country plunging into a deep crisis, and army tanks out on the road, the students have appealed for help. They need to make their way via Ankara to Istanbul to fly back to New Delhi on 18 July. With the audacious coup attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the students are not sure if they would be able to make their journey safely.

Ten of the 148 students are from Tamil Nadu. One of them, V Tamilselvi, a student of TST Rajah School in Royapuram in Chennai, recorded a message on her mobile phone and Whatsapped it across for the SOS to reach India. In the video she said, "We came to Turkey's Trabzon to participate in the World's School Championship. It is taking place from 11th to 18th, we left Delhi on 11th. This morning, our parents called and told us, around three hours before, a bomb blast took place in the city of Ankara in Turkey, but there are no problems where we are which is Trabzon. Our competition will go on till 18th, there are still two more days where the meet is scheduled to take place. What is going to happen, is it even going to go on as scheduled, we have received no information so far. On 18th, we will be travelling from Trabzon to Ankara and from Ankara to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Delhi. So, until we reach Delhi safely, we request the Central government to help us in any way possible." (Message translated from Tamil).

"We are right now going into an emergency meeting to discuss what needs to be done. We do not know if the meet will happen the next two days," Tamilselvi said over phone from Trabzon.

Tamilselvi, who participated in the 100 m came seventh. She had performed better in the Asian School Games in China last year, winning the silver medal.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted early this morning warning Indian nationals against travel to Turkey. She also asked Indian nationals in Turkey to avoid public places and stay indoors.

Meanwhile, union sports minister Vijay Goel said the students are safe and that the School Games Federation of India is in touch with authorities in Turkey.

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