India’s frantic evacuation of its citizens out of war-torn Yemen gathered pace on Friday as it received permission to land in the capital Sanaa and airlifted 351 people from the city to safety in two sorties.
Over 2,500 Indian nationals, however, are waiting to be evacuated as escalating violence lashes the country with a bloody battle between Saudi-led fighters loyal to deposed president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels, who have battled their way into Yemen’s main port city of Aden.
“First air evacuation from Yemen successful. Two Air India flights evacuate a total of 351 Indians from Sanaa to Djibouti,” tweeted external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
After reaching Djibouti, the evacuees will be brought home by Indian Air Force planes that cannot fly directly to Yemen due to a restriction on aircraft in conflict zones. New Delhi has also asked other countries such as Egypt and Ethiopia permission to use their airports for emergency evacuation.
So far, most rescues were done by a Navy warship that has evacuated over 650 people in the last three days.
Akbaruddin also said 35 Indians had crossed over from Yemen to Saudi Arabia and were now in Gizan with Indian officials assisting them to return to the country.
Back home, anxious relatives waited for their dear ones trapped in Yemen, many of them nurses under heavy debt and with no passport and other documents.
Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy confirmed this, saying many nurses had expressed hope that the violence would abate soon and had refused to come back without their papers and salaries.
“Most nurses submitted their certificates and travel papers with the hospital where they work. We have to persuade them that life is more important than these certificates,” he said.