Over 350 Indians were flown in from war ravaged Yemen on Thursday morning aboard two special flights of IAF planes. They landed in Mumbai and Kochi.
The Indians were earlier evacuated on a naval vessel from Aden, Yemen’s second-largest city and a major flashpoint in the battle between Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia-backed coalition fighters allied with exiled president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The evacuees who landed in Mumbai are from different states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
“We could see bombs dropping (nearby) and crossfire from our balcony. I was worried about my son and two daughters who are very young (all under 10 years),” said Mohammad Yunus Shabandri, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka.
Shabandri, who was working at a rice trading company in Aden for around eight years, said all schools were closed.
“Now, we are going to make arrangements for their (children’s) schooling in India,” he added.
Saiju Verghese , a 25-year-old from Thiruvananthapuram who worked at a hospital in Aden, said that the situation was deteriorating day by day.
He said that they were struck in the hospital for two days as rebels and Saudi-backed militia traded gunfire on the streets outside”.
He also appealed to the Centre to evacuate the other Indians stranded in Yemen.
A visibly relieved Mujibul Sheikh, 50, said he had not “slept properly for two weeks” and was worried that he may not see his family in Kolkata again.
A Tamil Nadu native Latha, who worked as a nurse in Yemen, said there were many nurses from Kerala still stranded in Yemen.
SK Sood, general manager in Central Railways, who was present at the airport, said they have made arrangements for travel of the evacuees to their home state free of cost.
PTI quoted an IAF wing commander Vikram Abbi as saying that the evacuation operation was a very difficult task as not much details were available. Abbi was a co-pilot in one of the flights out of Djibouti.
Abbi said that the crew was told about the rescue operation on March 30 and the flight departed from India on Wednesday.
Latest reports from Yemen said Houthi fighters have pushed into the centre of Aden and were battling for control of the southern port city, despite a weeklong Saudi military offensive against them.
Witnesses reported fierce street battles and high civilian casualties in the Yemeni city on Wednesday night, including in the Khormakser district along the coast.
A Houthi victory in Aden would be a significant setback for the Saudi-led military coalition, which has declared an open-ended operation intended to restore Hadi to power.
(With PTI inputs)