Some 400 South Koreans who had been stranded on a typhoon-hit Saipan arrived home safely on Oct. 28, 2018 via two commercial flights, with roughly 200 others to land by midnight, foreign ministry officials said.
The first batch of roughly 1,600 South Koreans, who were left aground on the Pacific island after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the region early last week, reunited with their families in tears and relief at the Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 at around 7 p.m.
An Asiana Airlines and a Jeju Air flight carried them from Saipan and Guam. A South Korean military aircraft had airlifted some of the tourists to Guam for safety reasons.
The government is yet to provide an official figure for those who safely returned home, since the number is still being counted, according to officials. They expect a T'way Air flight to bring another roughly 200 by midnight.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs later said in a message to reporters that it puts the tentative tally of returning tourists at 580 for between on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, including those who are en route to Incheon.
The Incheon airport was packed with families of the stranded tourists waiting for their loved ones to appear. When they reunited, some of them screamed in joy and relief, hugging and bursting into tears.
"I couldn't sleep. I was worried that they didn't have food, electricity and water," a 62-year-old Lee said. "I'm so happy to see them again. I'm so glad no one was hurt." His wife and two daughters were on a trip to Saipan.
Many of the tourists showed signs of deep distress and fatigue, and were seen hastily leaving the airport to avoid media.
The foreign ministry will continue with the transport plan on Monday to move remaining tourists to Guam via the military jet. Four local commercial flights are expected to carry them home and most of the tourists will have returned by Oct. 29, 2018, the ministry said.