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Over 1,300 Indians evacuated from Lebanon

New Delhi, July 26: A total of 1,384 Indians besides 44 Nepalis and 21 Sri Lankans have been evacuated so far from strife-torn Lebanon by the Indian government.

In the second round of Operation Sukoon - launched following Israel's bombings targeting the Hezbollah militants in south Lebanon - 847 people reached India by two special Air India flights, which reached Chennai and Delhi early Tuesday.

At the beginning of the conflict earlier this month, there were about 12,000 Indians in Lebanon, most of whom are contracted workers. The evacuees were first brought by Indian naval ships from the Lebanese capital of Beirut to Larnaca in Cyprus and then flown to India.

Among them, 681 were from Tamil Nadu, while 371 were from Punjab and 125 from Delhi.

India is probably the only country that is evacuating nationals of neighbouring countries, apart from its own citizens from Lebanon.

In the first round of evacuation Friday, 602 people were airlifted by two Air India aircraft from Larnaca to Chennai and Mumbai.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi went to Chennai to receive 400 of the evacuees in that operation.

According to a senior official of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), 300 Indians, 34 Nepalis and 30 Sri Lankans were waiting in Lebanon to be evacuated Wednesday. It takes around 10 hours for a ship to sail between Larnaca and Beirut.

The Ministry was taking all possible steps to ensure that the evacuees reached their homes in India safely, the official said.

The ministry, in co-ordination with Air India and Indian airline, made arrangements for the onward journey of passengers to their respective destinations. Some state governments have also transported a number of evacuees by bus to their homes.

The official said that the Ministry has set up help desks at the Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai airports. Arrangements have also been made for food and medical assistance at these airports.

When asked whether the government was planning any rehabilitation programme for the evacuees, the official told IANS: "We will first review the situation of all those who have returned. Later, maybe, we will see if any skill upgrade training could be imparted to the unskilled or semi-skilled workers so that they can get alternative employment elsewhere."

At least one Indian has been killed and four, including a soldier attached to the UN peacekeeping force, have been injured in Israel's attacks, the fiercest in 24 years.

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