After fending off bombardment for around two weeks, 70 Indian sailors sneaked out of Khokha port in Yemen on board their five crafts Wednesday, industry associations in Gujarat claimed. However, 14 other Gujarati crew remained stranded in the Gulf country, with their vessels having been destroyed in the bombing of September 8.
“There was no bombing on the port over the last two days. This morning, sailors found the weather fair. Therefore, they departed from Khokha,” Adam Thain, president of Kutch Vahanvata Owners Association (KVOA), said.
Of the five country crafts which were stranded at the Yemeni port for more than two weeks, two are from Mandavi in Kutch, one from Salaya in Devbhoomi Dwarka. The remaining two crafts are registered in UAE, but have Gujarati crew. The Mandavi vessels have been identified as Naushad and Jumer while the Salaya-registered craft has been identified as Noore-Haji-Hussain. “They found an opening and set the sail out of port. No navy is officially escorting the vessels. They have taken the risk to venture out,” Abdulkarim Kungda, vice-president of Salaya Sailing Vessels Association, said. “At around 3 pm (IST), my brother Asgar informed me that our vessel had sailed nine nautical miles off Khokha port. However, they are uncertain as to where they will head,” Abid Sumbhania, said.
Sumbhania’s elder brother, Asgar, is the owner of Noore-Haji-Hussain, which has a crew of 17 members. “Their first priority is to reach international waters and look for safety,” Thain said. However, the fate of 14 other Gujarati sailors continued to remain uncertain. While the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is trying to evacuate these sailors, the seamen said they were living under continuous threat. “Officers of the Indian embassy in Djibouti have established contact with us. But we have not been informed about the possible evacuation plan,” Ravi Duttani, one of the crew of downed Al Mustafa, said. These 14 sailors have been put up in Al Hudaydah town in Yemen, about 80 km from Khokha port, by their shipping agents. Four of them are in hospital.