‘Like being on deathbed’: Rescued Indians share tales of ordeals in Sudan
New Delhi: “It was like we were on a deathbed,” recalled a relieved Sukhvinder Singh from Haryana as he arrived at the Delhi airport from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday night after being evacuated from strife-torn Sudan.
In his mid-40s, the engineer was among the first batch of 360 Indian nationals who returned home under India’s ‘Operation Kaveri’ evacuation mission.
Singh, a native of Faridabad in Haryana, recalled his ordeal in Sudan and said he was “still very scared”.
“We were living in one area, confined to one room. It was like we were on a deathbed,” he told PTI before making his way home.
India has evacuated at least 670 Indian nationals from Sudan and is looking to rescue more of its citizens from the strife-torn African nation before the end of a tenuous ceasefire between the regular army and a paramilitary force.
Chhotu, a factory worker who hails from Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, was in a state of disbelief and exclaimed, “‘Marke wapas aa gaya (have returned after almost dying)’.” “Now, I will never return to Sudan. I will do anything in this country but won’t go back,” he told PTI shortly after landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport’s Terminal 3.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar took to Twitter to share images of the evacuees after their arrival at the Delhi airport.
“India welcomes back its own. Operation Kaveri brings 360 Indian nationals to the homeland as first flight reaches New Delhi,” he tweeted.
At the airport’s Terminal 3, as people deboarded the aircraft of Saudia — a Saudi Arabian airline — and slowly streamed on to the arrivals lounge area, smiles could be seen on the faces of many who went through tense moments over the past few days.
Many waved emphatically, displaying a visible sign of relief, while others shook hands on the skybridge as they were welcomed on their return.
Several were seen carrying their luggage, accompanied by children. They also obliged a few photographers with pictures upon their safe return.
Tasmer Singh (60), an evacuee who hails from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, described his experience during the ongoing strife as horrifying.
“We were like a dead body, roaming in a small house without power, water. We never imagined that we will face this kind of a situation in our lives but thank God, we are alive,” he said.
Sudan has been witnessing deadly fighting between the country’s army and a paramilitary group for the last 12 days that has reportedly left around 400 people dead.
India stepped up its efforts to evacuate the Indians from Sudan after a 72-hour truce was agreed between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces following intense negotiations.
The batch of Indian nationals evacuated from Sudan who landed in Delhi heaved a sigh of relief after returning to their homeland.
Among the evacuees who reached Delhi airport in the Saudia flight, 19 are from Kerala, state government officials said.
Under ‘Operation Kaveri’, India is taking the evacuees to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah from where they are returning home.
India has set up a transit facility in Jeddah and Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan is overseeing the evacuation mission from the Saudi Arabian city.
Sukhwinder Singh, the engineer, also narrated how difficult it was to travel during the strife in Sudan.
“We contacted the Indian embassy and buses for around 200 people were arranged. A road trip was very risky. Only God knows how we reached Port Sudan,” he said.
He said the warring groups can shoot anybody “depending on their mood”.
“It depends on the mood of the individual. If we say we are Indians, they let us go,” the Faridabad native said.
Meanwhile, IndiGo said it has offered services for charter flights to Jeddah under ‘Operation Kaveri’.
“We are still awaiting details from the ministry to launch these flights, nothing has been confirmed as of yet,” the airline said in a statement.
The Indian Air Force’s transport aircraft brought to Jeddah 392 Indians from Port Sudan on Wednesday, a day after an Indian Navy ship rescued 278 citizens from that country.
The total number of Indians evacuated so far from Sudan stands at 670, according to official data.
The first batch of 278 Indians were evacuated from Port Sudan by the Indian Navy’s frontline ship INS Sumedha on Tuesday.
Several states have opened help desks and announced assistance such as free travel and lodging for Indians evacuated from Sudan once they arrive in the country.
The Kerala government said it would make necessary arrangements to bring Malayalis evacuated from Sudan by the Centre to the state.
The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday opened a help desk at the resident commissioner’s office in Delhi for people from the state trapped in Sudan, a senior official said in Lucknow.
The Rajasthan government has decided to bear the transportation expense of all migrants from the state after they land in Delhi.
The government will also arrange for boarding and lodging for the returnees, officials said.