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Operation Samudra Setu begins, two naval ships ferrying 2,000 Indians from Maldives

Navy's INS Jalashwa and INS Magar reached Male on Thursday and are making two trips each to Kochi and Tuticorin bringing back 2,000 selected Indians stranded in Maldives. INS Jalashwa set sail for Kochi on Friday night, the mission's first trip.

NEW DELHI, May 9: The Operation Samudra Setu, a Government mission to evacuate Indians stranded in Maldives by sea, is under way.

Of the two naval ships deployed, the amphibious INS Jalashwa warship set sail from Male on Friday night for Kochi with 698 Indians. Among the passengers are a number of pregnant women and children. INS Magar will leave for Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu on Sunday with 200 Indians. There will be more trips. An evacuation fee of $40 per passenger is being charged. On arrival also the passengers will be medically screened.

"Bon Voyage! #INSJalashwa departs from Male port for Kochi with 698 Indian nationals on board," the Indian High Commission in Maldives tweeted.

Around 2,000 people were selected to be repatriated out of 4,500 who applied, on the basis of compelling reasons like medical issues, senior citizens, job loss, family emergency etc. There are a total of 27,000 Indians stranded in Maldives because of the ban on international flights due to coronavirus epidemic.

The two naval ships, INS Jalashwa and INS Magar, reached Male on Thursday and are making two trips each to Kochi and Tuticorin. They are carrying the Indians stranded across a group of 200 islands. The first trip was expected to arrive at Kochi on May 10 with 700 passengers.

The naval exercise is part of the Vande Bharat Mission launched to bring back Indians stranded in other countries. Air India has already evacuated hundreds of Indians from the Gulf countires and the mission will cover several other countries.

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