The special Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft with 156 evacuees from Sudan on board arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport at 5.30am on Friday morning.
46 Malayalis were among those rescued. The Kerala government has made special arrangements for their onward journey home.
“We did not step out of our rooms even once in the last four days. The situation was so bad that all we could hear was the continuous sound of firing and shelling. We were literally stranded in our rooms with hardly any food or water. We never thought we would be able to make it home this early,” says Arun, who has been working in Sudan for the past 12 years.
Speaking to The News Minute, Arun affirms that the country has not faced such a serious domestic crisis in recent times.
“We were in constant touch with Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NORKA) department and the Indian Embassy. They were very helpful. Officials from NORKA were in regular touch with us and kept a tab on our safety,” he adds.
Arun hopes to return to his place of livelihood in a couple of weeks’ time, hoping that the fragile ceasefire that was declared on July 11 will continue to hold: “All our savings are out there…we cannot just walk away. After all, it’s a matter of earning our daily bread and butter.”
Vipin -a native of Haripad in Kerala- left for Sudan only 6 months ago. “Everything seemed fine there initially, but the last five days was pure hell. We had almost given up any hope of survival. It was very scary to see shelling at such close quarters. I really did not think we would make it home safely. But now that we are here, we are finally able to relax,” he shares, the relief very evident in his voice.
But this close brush with death does not seem to have deterred Vipin from wanting to return to the strife-torn country, as he believes he does not have much of a choice in this regard.
“Since ceasefire was declared, we do hope we will be able to soon return. Staying here is not an option for us. So many Indians have stayed back only because it is the question of their livelihood,” he remarks.
This was part of the 'Operation Sankat Mochan' initiated by the Indian government to evacuate Indians from the African country and was led by Gen (retd) VK Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs.
Speaking to reporters at the airport, Singh said two defence aircrafts were involved in the evacuation operation and the other one would land in Delhi.
"More than 500 Indians were evacuated. Over 300 Indians continue to stay there for business interests. There are around 150 Indians who work in the oil-wells there. For them, Sudan is one country which is easily accessible and usually relatively calm on the domestic front," Singh reportedly said.
The minister also added that he had spoken to the Sudanese vice-president who had briefed him about his government’s efforts to ensure the safety of all the residents of the African nation.
The Kerala government was represented by Kadakampally Surendran -Minister for Electricity- and other district officials.