2015-03-30 / .

Hundreds of Indian nurses caught up in Yemen fighting

Thiruvananthapuram: More than half of the 4,000 Indian nationals caught up in the conflict in Yemen are nurses, the foreign ministry said on Monday, the latest security scare for medical staff working in the Middle East after dozens were kidnapped in Iraq last year. The nurses, mostly from Kerala, are often hired on harsh terms with middlemen taking up-front fees, and hospitals are reluctant to let them go because they would have to close without foreign staff. Sajeesh Mathew's wife, 29-year-old nurse Asha, has worked for three years at the Al-Naqib Hospital in the port city of Aden, scene of heavy fighting on Monday.

"The areas around the hospital are now under the control of the Houthi rebels," said Mathew, whose wife is one of 35 Indian nurses at the hospital. The city's port is destroyed and the road to Sanaa is unsafe, he added. Although no Indian casualties have been reported, the nurses' predicament in Yemen recalls the ordeal suffered by 46 Indian nurses kidnapped from a hospital in Iraq last year as Islamic State militants advanced on Tikrit. The nurses were freed and evacuated in June, in an early diplomatic triumph for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government, but the fate of 39 Indian building workers taken captive in Mosul remains unclear.

India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is mounting an attempt to airlift nationals from the Yemeni city of Sanaa. Eighty Indians were flown out on Sunday to Djibouti, on the opposite shore of the Gulf of Aden. Two Air India aircraft were on standby in Muscat, Oman, but had not been granted permission to fly to Sanaa to evacuate Indian nationals, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters on Monday. He said 400 Indians were being evacuated by sea from Aden and would reach Djibouti on Tuesday. They will be flown home by the Indian Air Force.

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