India said on Monday it would pull out 400 Indians by ship from Yemen even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought the Saudi king’s support for evacuating some 4,000 Indians from the war-torn country.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said 400 Indians will be taken by ship from the Yemeni port city Aden to Djibouti, where they will be put on a flight home.
Junior foreign minister Gen (retired) VK Singh will go to Djibouti on Tuesday to oversee the evacuation, which involves two heavy-lift C-17 Globemaster aircraft and two ships. “Air India has positioned two planes in Muscat,” Akbaruddin said.
The Cochin Port Trust sent two ships stocked with provisions to Djibouti to evacuate Indians. They will reach the African port close to Yemen in a week.
On Monday evening, Modi shared his “deep concern” for the safety and welfare of approximately 4,000 Indians in Yemen during a phone conversation with King Salman bin Abdul aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, which is leading an Arab coalition that has mounted air strike on Houthi rebels.
Modi briefed King Salman on India's evacuation plan and requested his support and cooperation in the evacuation of the Indians, said a statement from the external affairs ministry.
The king assured Modi of “his full attention to the safety of Indians in Yemen and all possible assistance for their early and safe evacuation”. Modi conveyed his best wishes to King Salman for a “quick resolution of the challenges in the region and early restoration of peace and stability under his leadership”.
Thousands of Indians left stranded in war-ravaged Yemen were staring at food and water scarcity, besides the growing risk to their lives from relentless air strikes.
“The situation is getting bad to worse. The war has stranded at least 3,000 Indians, mostly nurses. Saudi planes are bombing rebel targets at night but the situation will be different once the Houthis move to populated areas,” said T Lijo, an IT professional from Kerala, who was among 80 Indians who returned on a flight from Sanaa via Djibouti last week.
He and two other men from Kerala were on that flight but most of the more than 500 nurses from the state holed up in Yemen are reluctant to return because they were not paid for the past three months or more and their Yemeni employers have declined to return their passports.
Businessman Jacob Kora said Indians were safe as of now but the worst was yet to come. “Conditions are likely to deteriorate in the coming days because most areas are without food, water and power.”
Ruben Chandy, the third man to come home, said he had to wait at an airport in Yemen for a few days before catching a flight. “I worked with a Dubai-based oil company in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. I was the only Indian in the company, which gave me a ticket to fly home. We flew to Djibouti on Saturday and then took a Qatar Airways flight to Doha before then I reached here.
“The Indian embassy is doing its best to help people. Sanaa is in a hilly terrain ... there is heavy bombing in these areas after sunset and continues till sunrise,” Chandy said.
No Indian has been reported killed or wounded in the fighting in Yemen as the Saudi-led coalition continued targeting Shia Houthis rebels, who have overrun most of the tiny nation and forced West-backed president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee.