INS Jalashwa, carrying 698 repatriated Indian citizens from the Maldives, arrived at Kochi Port on Sunday (May 10) morning, completing the Indian Navy’s first massive evacuation exercise from foreign soil during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The ship was one of three dispatched by the government to the Maldives and UAE to evacuate stranded Indians, on May 4.
According to reports, the ship had 19 pregnant women on board.
“The first group of 698 persons evacuated from the Maldives arrived at Cochin Port today (Sunday) at 9:30 AM by INS Jalashwa of the Indian Navy”, a Port Trust statement said.
Though most passengers are from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, there were repatriates of 18 other states and Union Territories also in the ship, which began its journey from Male to Kochi on Friday (May 8) night.
Many of the passengers who spoke to the media after reaching Kochi praised the government’s initiative of evacuating them and thanked the Navy for its hospitality and bringing them home safely.
— ANI (@ANI) May 10, 2020
“We are safe now. We had a nice experience. The staff was very friendly. They took good care of us,” a passenger told NDTV.
The passengers were charged USD 40 as the evacuation service charge, the High Commission of India in the Maldives said in a statement.
The ship has berthed at BTP Jetty and the disembarkation procedures are being carried out at Samudrika Cruise Terminal, the statement said. Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhare said all arrangements are in place to facilitate the safe stay of those repatriated, comprising 440 residents of Kerala and people from other parts of the country. While four passengers are from Lakshwadeep, the others are from Tamil Nadu (187), Telangana (9), Andhra Pradesh (8), Karnataka (8), Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan (3 each) and Goa and Assam(1 each). There are seven passengers each from Uttarakhand and West Bengal, Delhi (4), Puducherry (3), while there are two passengers each from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, the sources said.
Passengers showing COVID-19 symptoms are being disembarked first, followed by others in small groups, district-wise, a Port Trust official told PTI.
Port Health Organisation is also conducting thermal screening of passengers on arrival. Customs and Immigration procedures are carried out inside the Terminal, where arrangements have also been made for distribution of SIM cards by BSNL and installation of ArogyaSetu in mobile phones of passengers, the official told PTI.
Disinfection facilities for baggage and free wi-fi have been made available by the Port at the Terminal. Arrangements for onward travel to hospitals or institutional quarantine centres and home quarantine have been ensured by the state government by deploying ambulances, state transport buses and taxis, the official said. These arrangements are coordinated by the District Administration, Police and Health Departments.
(With inputs from agencies)