Indian Navy Sends Amphibs to Repatriate Citizens from Maldives and UAE
The Indian Navy has dispatched amphibious assault ships to the Maldives and to the UAE in order to evacuate Indian citizens who have been stranded by the COVID-19 shutdown.
As part of Operation Samudra Setu (Sea Bridge), the amphibs INS Jalashwa and INS Magar are under way to the port of Male in the Maldives to evacuate citizens who need to return home, the Indian Navy said Tuesday morning. The Indian consulate in the Maldives is coordinating a list of individuals who are eligible for evacuation and will facilitate medical screenings for evacuees prior to boarding. The first trip from Male to Kochi will accommodate about 1,000 people in total, maintaining extra space on board for social distancing requirements.
Meanwhile, the INS Shardul is now under way to the UAE, where she will evacuate additional Indian expatriates. Only asymptomatic people will be permitted on board for these voyages, and only after a health screening.
The effort is expected to expand to include other Persian Gulf states in the days to come, and it will include chartered air travel as well as naval ship support. The massive transport mission could bring nearly 200,000 people back to India within the span of about six weeks, officials told The Wall Street Journal. In the UAE alone, there are roughly 150,000 Indian nationals who have requested repatriation, India's consul general in Dubai told Gulf News.
Individuals who participate in the planned evacuation flights will be charged at commercial airfare rates, according to Indian aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri. Air India will manage the flights, and the longest-distance options - like flights from the U.S. West Coast - will cost as much as $1,300 per person. The majority of the flights will be for individuals located in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and given shorter distances, the average cost is expected to be less.