Eighty-five Indians, including 46 Keralites, evacuated from strife-torn South Sudan arrived at Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram airport by a special Indian Air Force aircraft on Friday.
Among those rescued from the conflict zone were also two Nepalese nationals, seven women and three children.
A total of 156 Indians were evacuated in two C 17 Globemaster flights of the Indian Air Force, one of which landed in Delhi carrying 71 Indians.
The Kerala government has made special arrangements for the onward journey of the persons belonging to other southern states who landed early in the morning.
Anil Kumar, one of those who returned, told reporters that firing had intensified in South Sudan early this week.
“For almost five days there was heavy firing and it was then that we decided to return. Yesterday it was a quiet day, that made our movement to the airport easy,” said Kumar.
Another relieved Keralite said that it was pretty scary in South Sudan where clashes between rival factions have broken out.
“Right in front of our gate one person was shot dead and many of us thought that we will never see our homeland again. There was heavy firing and for four days we were inside our home, without coming out even once,” said another relieved Keralite.
“We are thankful to the government and the Indian embassy there which rose to the occasion and acted. The present situation is due to the differences of opinion that have broken out between two tribes in Sudan. If things are back to normal there, I wish to return,” said another Keralite.
The evacuation of Indians from the African country was part of the “Operation Sankat Mochan” initiated by the Indian government and was led by Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh.
The flight touched down at the Thiruvananthapuram airport at around 5 a.m.
Speaking to reporters at the airport, Singh said two aircraft were involved in the evacuation operation.
“Over 300 Indians will continue to stay in South Sudan for their business interests. About 150 Indians work in the oil wells, and for them it’s easier to go towards Sudan where there are not many issues,” Singh said.
“While I was there, I spoke to the Vice President of South Sudan and he told me what they are doing with regard to the safety of the people there,” added Singh.
State Minister for Electricity Kadakampally Surendran and district officials received the evacuated Indians at the airport on behalf of the Kerala government.