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New Delhi:

 
Three Navy ships set sail on Tuesday to bring back Indian citizens stranded in the Maldives and UAE because of lockdown imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus. These are part of the total 14 ships kept ready to bring back those stranded in the Gulf nations.

Two left for the Maldives and one for Dubai. These three ships can bring around 2,000 people while maintaining social distancing. Amphibious transport dock INS Jalaswa and warfare vessel INS Magar set sails for the Maldives and INS Shardul attached to Southern Naval Command sailed for Dubai.

INS Shardul is expected to dock at Dubai on Thursday and the details of evacuation will be decided by the Indian mission there. Thereafter it will take another two days for the vessel to return to Kochi.

The force said that they have launched Operation ‘Samudra Setu’ (Sea Bridge), as a part of national effort to evacuate Indian citizens from overseas.

Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa and Magar are currently en route to the port of Male, Republic of Maldives, to commence evacuation operations from May 8 as part of Phase-1.

“The government has been closely monitoring the situation with respect to the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on our citizens abroad. The Indian Navy has been directed to make suitable preparations for their evacuation by sea,” said Commander Vivek Madhwa.

The Indian Mission in the Republic of Maldives is preparing a list of Indian nationals to be evacuated by Naval ships and will facilitate their embarkation after the requisite medical screening. A total of 1,000 persons are planned to be evacuated during the first trip.

These ships have made arrangements as per the standard protocol laid out to deal with suspected COVID people like social distancing and sanitization. The Indian Navy has removed non-essential equipment in order to accommodate the evacuees.

Other 11 ships are on standby so far and as the Central government issues directions, they would start sailing, said a senior Indian Navy official.

Earlier, the Navy had carried out evacuation efforts in war-torn areas such as Lebanon (2006) and Yemen (2015). Before that, the evacuation was carried out in 1990 during the first Gulf war between Iraq and Kuwait where around 1.5 lakh people were evacuated.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has unveiled a detailed schedule for the evacuation of stranded citizens from various countries. As per schedule, 64 flights will be operated aiming to bring 15,000 Indians from May 7 to May 14.

In addition, 30 Air Force aircraft have been put on standby to carry out evacuation operations the moment the go-ahead is given.

The Air Force has already evacuated citizens from countries affected by Covid-19 frequently since January, which includes flights to China, Japan, Iran, Kuwait and Italy.

The force has stated that they have kept C-17 Globemaster and C-130s on standby and can be used whenever required.

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