In a big relief to Indians stuck in Yemen, the Union government received permission on Friday to fly its nationals out of the capital city of Sana’a.
Two A-321 aircraft of Air India on standby in Muscat evacuated 351 stranded nationals to Djibouti, even as 300 passengers reached there on INS Sumitra. In all, 664 Indians were flown home on three flights.
While two Indian Air Force planes carrying 334 people landed in Mumbai past 11 p.m. on Friday, a special Air India flight with 330 Indians reached Kochi airport post midnight.
The two Air Force C-17 Globemasters which landed in Mumbai carried among others, 306 evacuees — 251 men, 38 women, 17 children — rescued by Navy vessel INS Sumitra.
In Kochi, the evacuees, including nurses and workers, were welcomed at the airport by Kerala Minister for Diaspora K.C. Joseph along with State government officials.
Earlier in the day, confirming these to The Hindu , the Union Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs, General (Retd) V.K. Singh, said the two flights would try to make at least two trips to transport passengers from Sana’a to Djibouti, where he is overseeing and coordinating their return to India. “We have been stuck for two days because of the lack of permission to land in Sana’a,” he told The Hindu. “If all goes well, we hope to bring at least 500 more Indians out of Yemen today [Friday].”
Djibouti has become the nodal point for all Indian evacuation efforts. In the absence of a safe passage by road out of Sana’a, Indians are being moved to Djibouti by air and then flown to India, officials said. The two Air India planes have been on standby at the Muscat airport for several days, waiting for clearance from Saudi Arabia, which control the airspace over the capital and have been conducting regular airstrikes on Yemen.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken to Saudi King Salman earlier this week, but permission had been held up while the bombing continued. Air Force officials said the Boeing 777 long-range plane, which can carry 300 to 450 passengers, had been sent from Mumbai to Djibouti.
An additional C-17 is on standby at Djibouti. India has been evacuating passengers through the sea route to Djibouti, with INS Sumitra rescuing 650 passengers from Aden and Al Hudaydah, including at least 11 foreign nationals of “South Asian and African nationality” on Thursday, officials said.
While the A-321s will shuttle between Sana’a and Djibouti, the C-17s and AI-777 will fly to India.
The naval ships INS Mumbai and INS Tarkash, along with two shipping corporation vessels, are expected to reach the Gulf of Aden on Saturday and join the rescue effort.
(With PTI inputs)