Navy ship with 698 evacuees departs from Male for Kochi

Navy ship with 698 evacuees departs from Male for Kochi

Indian envoy lauds Maldives govt. for its ‘wonderful support and helping hand’ in evacuation

Navy ship INS Jalashwa departed from the Port of Malé in Maldives on Friday with 698 Indians on board, and is scheduled to reach Kochi on May 10. The 698 people include 595 men, 103 women, including 19 pregnant women. The Navy launched this evacuation effort under ‘Operation Samudra Setu’.

“After the voyage of INS Jalashwa today, we expect a voyage by INS Magar to Kochi on May 10. We expect voyages by the same ships to Thoothukudi on May 12 and 14,” Sanjay Sudhir, High Commissioner to the Maldives, told The Hindu. INS Jalashwa, the Navy’s landing platform dock, reached Malé on Thursday.

‘Complex operation’

Mr. Sudhir termed the entire effort a “very complex operation” since Indians are spread over 200 islands across the 800 km length of the Maldives and there are restrictions in place on island to island movement. “There are a lot of medical cases, including pregnant women, where ferrying them to Malé is a challenge. There are a lot of senior citizens with specific medical requirements. What made it challenging was the fact that Malé is under lockdown and all offices and Ministries are closed,” he said.

The envoy was all praise for the Government of Maldives for the “wonderful support and helping hand” they had received despite the fact that the city was under lockdown.

“They made available immigration and baggage facilities at the Velana International Airport though it is a sea voyage. Alongside berthing for the ship was provided at Malé Port which made embarkation very easy for the passengers,” he added.

Compelling cases

Official sources said that in all about 1800-2000 Indians would be evacuated from Maldives and priority was being given to compelling cases such as medical, senior citizens, family emergencies and jobless. About 4500 Indian community members out of approximately 27,000 have conveyed their wish to travel back, the sources added.

The Indian High Commission in Maldives said an “evacuation service charge” of $40 per head would be collected from Indians embarking on naval ships from Maldives to return to India as stated by the government to charge for all repatriations. This marks the first time passengers being evacuated by the Navy are being charged.

To be quarantined

All those being repatriated under ‘Operation Vande Bharat’ will be quarantined at facilities set up across the country. Under this, the three Services have set up six quarantine facilities that can accommodate up to 2,100 Indians arriving from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Malaysia.

The facilities have been established in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bhopal, Kochi, Visakhapatnam and Chennai.

Two amphibious ships, INS Airawat and INS Shardul, are proceeding to the United Arab Emirates but the modalities for evacuation are still being worked out.

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