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India evacuates 206 Keralites from war-hit Yemen
02-04-2015

New Delhi: Two IAF C-17 aircraft carrying 190 and 168 Indians took off from Djibouti in war-hit Yemen to their respective destinations of Mumbai and Kochi on Wednesday night.

The flight to Kochi is expected to land at the Nedumbassery International airport by 1.30 am on Thursday, while the flight to Mumbai is expected to reach Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport by 3.15 am.

Earlier in the day, India had evacuated 358 nationals, including 206 Keralites, from the southern Yemeni port of Aden to Djibouti.

The 358 Indians arrived in Djibouti on Tuesday night on board Indian naval ship INS Sumitra. Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh, who reached neighbouring Djibouti on Tuesday, was coordinating the evacuation operation with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.

INS Sumitra Wednesday left Djibouti for al Hodeidah, a port on the west coast of Yemen, as part of Operation Raahat.

Fighting has been going on in Yemen since January 22 when the legitimate government under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was ousted by Shia Houthi forces. This has provoked the recent military campaign by a coalition of 10 countries led by Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act fast to help Keralites stranded in Yemen. In a letter, Chandy said he was getting frantic calls from young Kerala nurses in Yemen. He pointed out that Pakistani and Chinese nationals had already been evacuated.

“They (nurses) all are literally weeping and are afraid for their lives if urgent steps are not taken,” wrote Chandy. He also pressed Modi to prevail upon Saudi Arabia to ensure landing facilities for Indian flights in Sana'a and other airports in Yemen.

He said all Indians who want to return may be provided an exit pass and permission to leave Yemen without paying any fees. “Some hospitals including the Sana'a Military Hospital are not permitting our nurses to leave Yemen. They are demanding compensation and withholding the passports,” Chandy said.

Kerala government sources said some 600 Keralites were awaiting a relief flight from India at the Sana’a airport. Besides helping its own nationals, India will also assist Bangladesh in bringing back its stranded nationals from Yemen.

According to Bangladeshi media, the Indian move came hours after Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque told journalists in Dhaka that they had spoken to New Delhi on ways to bring back their nationals.

The Bangladeshi foreign secretary said India had agreed in principle to help Bangladesh evacuate its nationals, but after pulling out its own nationals. The Indian High Commission tweeted: “India to Assist in Evacuation of Bangladesh Nationals from Yemen.”