Nearly 700 Indian nationals stranded in Sri Lanka due to international travel restrictions sailed back home on an Indian Navy warship, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said on Tuesday (June 2).
The voyage of the Indian Navy Ship INS Jalashwa is part of the series of Operation named ‘Samudra Setu’, an exercise in which Indian Naval Ships have been deployed to bring back stranded Indians abroad under the Vande Bharat Mission.
Tamil Nadu: INS Jalashwa carrying 685 Indian nationals from Colombo in Sri Lanka arrives at V O Chidambaranar Port in Tuticorin. A passenger says,"it feels great to be back home. We had a pleasant trip. We are grateful to Indian govt for bringing us back." #OperationSamudraSetu pic.twitter.com/UOUt2yTJlM
— ANI (@ANI) June 2, 2020
The Indian Naval Ship made the voyage from Colombo Port to Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu on June 1, it said.
“The ship has sailed to Tuticorin in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu with nearly 700 stranded Indian nations from Sri Lanka,” the commission said.
As soon as the passengers disembarked, they were thermal screened and their baggage disinfected by health workers in protective gear, V O Chidambaranar Port Trust and district police authorities said.
According to VOC Port Trust, nearly 700 people including crew arrived here as per schedule and 675 passengers belong to Tamil Nadu,and 10 others belong to states including neighbouring Kerala.
A total of 685 passengers — 553 men, 125 women and seven children arrived according to defence sources.
— ANI (@ANI) June 1, 2020
A chunk of the returnees were stranded tourists, some fishermen and workers and there were others under categories like “… short term visa holders faced with expiry of visas,” according to the port.
A senior police official said returnees were being sent to their respective districts in Tamil Nadu through specially arranged government buses and they have been advised to remain in home quarantine for two weeks.
Respective district health authorities will take swab samples from returnees from their houses as per protocol, he said.
Only if returnees had symptoms on arrival, they will be referred to hospitals here, he added.
“Operation #SamudraSetu #INSJalashwa arrives at Tuticorin with Indian citizens embarked from Colombo, Sri Lanka,” Navy Spokesperson said on his twitter handle.
Op #SamudraSetu#INSJalashwa entered Tuticorin today morning bringing back Indian citizens from Colombo.
Disembarkation is in progress.#हरकामदेशकेनाम#IndiaFightsCorona#MissionVandeBharat#MoDAgainstCorona@SpokespersonMoD @MEAIndia @DDNewslive @PIB_India @airnewsalerts pic.twitter.com/Yd5uy8bp0t
— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) June 2, 2020
The Indian High Commission on May 29 arranged the first flight repatriating 176 Indians stranded in Sri Lanka during the COVID-19 lockdown. The flight took off for Mumbai, Bhubaneswar, and Kolkata.
Under “Operation Samudra Setu”, the Indian Navy had repatriated nearly 1,500 Indian nationals from the Maldives in two phases in its vessels — INS Jalashwa and INS Magar on May 10, May 12 and May 17.
Sri Lanka has so far recorded 1,643 coronavirus cases, out of which 10 lives have been lost. The lockdown restrictions have been eased considerably and businesses are functioning under health guidelines.
This is INS Jalashwa’s second voyage to Sri Lanka. On May 30, 2017 the Navy warship was rushed to Sri Lanka with rescue teams and relief material to assist the Sri Lanka Navy in flood relief operations.
Earlier in a press release, the Indian High Commission said priority will be given to compelling cases, including migrant workers/labourers who have been laid off, short-term visa-holders faced with expiry of documents, people with medical emergency, pregnant women, elderly persons, persons required to return to India due to death in family and students.
(With inputs from agencies)