The Navy dispatched two ships, INS Jalashwa and INS Magar, to Male under Operation “Samudra Setu” to repatriate Indian citizens stranded due to the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) pandemic. The evacuation operations will commence from May 8 as part of Phase-1 efforts, the Navy said on Tuesday.
Defence sources confirmed that two ships, INS Shardul and INS Airavat, have set sail to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Modalities at the port of entry are being finalised and should be in place before the ships reach, a defence source said.
“A total of 1,000 persons are planned to be evacuated during the first trip, catering for COVID-related social-distancing norms vis-a-vis the carrying capacity and medical facilities available onboard,” the Navy said. “The Indian mission in Maldives is preparing a list of nationals to be evacuated by Naval ships and will facilitate their embarkation after requisite medical screening,” it stated.
The evacuated personnel will be disembarked in Kochi and entrusted to the care of the State authorities, the Navy said. INS Jalashwa is set to reach Male on May 8 and INS Magar on May 10.
INS Jalashwa is the largest amphibious platform in the Navy and is based at the Eastern Naval Command headquarters in Visakhapatnam. It can normally accommodate 1,000 people but will take about 800.
The other three amphibious ships are Landing Ship Tanks (LST) and can normally accommodate about 500 people each but the capacity will be reduced to 300-350, officials said.
Post-lockdown, Indians in Gulf will be the first to return
The Navy said the ships have been suitably provisioned for the evacuation and those evacuated would be provided the basic amenities and medical facilities during the sea passage. “In view of the unique challenges associated with coronavirus , stringent protocols have also been stipulated.”
The Navy had in the past launched evacuation operations overseas under Operation Rahat from Yemen in 2015 and Operation Sukoon from Lebanon in 2006.
Two Navy ships headed to Maldives, two to UAE for evacuation
On Monday, the Union Home Ministry had announced the decision to allow hundreds of thousands of Indians stranded world over to return in a phased manner beginning May 7 on commercial aircraft and naval ships on a payment basis.