First rescue flight from South Sudan lands with 156 on board

Thiruvananthapuram, India Updated: Jul 15, 2016, 07:30 AM(IST)

India's minister of state for external affairs General (retd) VK Singh, who headed the evacuation and travelled himself to South Sudan, talks to an evacuee in Thiruvananthapuram. Photograph:( Twitter )

The first of the two Indian Air Force C-17s evacuating Indian citizens from war-torn South Sudan landed in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala early this morning. There were 156 people on board, including nine women and children, and two Nepalese citizens. 

The plane deboarded a number of evacuees at Thiruvananthapuram, and then continued on to Delhi. 

The evacuation -- called Sankat Mochan or "rescue from danger" -- is being headed by India's minister of state for external affairs General (retd) VK Singh.

A second C-17 is also expected. Both flights took off from Juba, the South Sudanese capital. 

In a tweet, Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said both aircraft will be flying to Delhi via Thiruvananthapuram.

The official spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs (MEA), Vikas Swarup, tweeted that the first aircraft is carrying 143 Indian citizens on board, including 10 women and three infants.

The second aircraft, India's ambassador to South Sudan Srikumar Sen has reportedly said, is carrying the rest. There were some 600 Indian citizens in South Sudan when the conflict broke out, of which about 300 had registered for the evacuation. 

The mass evacuation reportedly faced a hurdle. Some Indian citizens in South Sudan reportedly refused to leave the country, after having registered for the evacuation and despite Swaraj appealing to Indian citizens to leave the country. Swaraj had also tweeted that should the situation deteriorate, the government would not be able to get them out. 

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir called a ceasefire on Monday after five days of intense fighting in Juba between troops loyal to him and those loyal to his deputy, vice president Riek Machar. The fighting, which broke out last Thursday, left more than a 150 dead and countless more injured.

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