Thiruvananthapuram -- A Keralite, among the first batch of Indians who returned home after being evacuated from Yemen, today said it was an unforgettable trauma with streets of the war-hit nation dotted with arms-wielding security personnel and civilians.
"The roads and streets before our hospitals were packed with Yemen military personnel. Native men could also be seen holding armaments," said Manju, 30, a lab technician with a private hospital in Aden.
The batch of 168 people, including a large number of nurses and workers from Kerala, arrived in Kochi international airport in the wee hours onboard a special IAF aircraft, in the government's first major rescue mission.
Expressing their happiness to be back home despite apprehensive about their future, some of them said still a lot of people were stranded in Yemen and want to return home.
Manju, part of a 26-member staff group of the hospital, which managed to take the ship to Djibouti en-route here, said she would never forget the trauma she and others had undergone in the last few days in Yemen.
"The most horrifying sight was that children, aged above 10 years, were also seen guarding the streets with huge machine guns in their hands," she told .
Jimmy from Pathanampuram in Kollam District said he was happy to come back, but expressed concern about others stranded there. Mariamma, a nurse, said there were many more people waiting anxiously to come back to Kerala. Hailing from Murinjakal in Pathanamthitta district, Manju said armed security guards had escorted them whenever they went out of the hospital in the last two-three weeks.
"If there was any emergency to go out of the hospital, we travelled in ambulances with the security of armed personnel. As Yemeni women had not been allowed to work in the night hours, Indians were forced to work in such shifts. I had to work continuously in the last one week," she said. "We did not sleep even for an hour these days. Whenever the noise of gun shots or bomb blasts are heard outside, we used to lie down in rooms using tables as shields," she said.
Although hospital authorities did not give them permission to leave or give their salaries, her group had decided to return to their home land, she said. None of them could take any valuables or passport while they rushed to the port to board the ship to Djibouti as per the directive of the Indian Embassy, she said.
"We took around half-and-hour to reach the port. During the journey, bomb blast and firing was there in many places."
Manju said they had only the copy of passports, which led to some problems at both the sea port and at Djibouti airport. But embassy officials allowed them all to board.