By Joymala Bagchi
Colombo [Sri Lanka], June 1 (ANI): Donning face masks and maintaining social distancing, elated Indians on Monday queued up to embark on ship INS Jalashwa on Monday.
People who arrived here in the month of March as tourists, or to attend a wedding or as fishermen and got stranded in Sri Lanka due to Coivd-induced travel restrictions are set to sail this evening and will disembark on June 2 at the Tuticorin harbour in Tamil Nadu.
A student Ranjit Kumar who had arrived here on a sightseeing trip with his mother and 73-year-old grandmother got stuck here following the lockdown announced by the Sri Lankan government told ANI, "We came here on a family vacation from March 4 till March 18. However, the government announced a full lockdown on March 18 following COVID-19 outbreak."
"We had no place to stay and I requested our tour guide to let us stay at his place at Wattala to which he fortunately agreed. I really thank our prime minister for initiating the SamudraSetu mission to evacuate stranded Indians like us," he added.
Kaliswari,74, from Tamil Nadu's Virudhunagar who had arrived here to attend a wedding and got struck here said:"I am dying to see my children and grandchildren back home in Tamil Nadu. I am so thankful to the government of India for thinking about us so dearly. I am more than happy to see the ship here that is going to take me to my home".
Apart from adhering to social distancing, evacuees are subjected to requisite medical screening and queried about any preexisting medical condition and only those asymptomatic for COVID-19 have been allowed to embark.
A fisherman named Raghunathan was about to return home in March but got stuck due to the lockdown. He said: "I am the only bread earner in my family. I am so happy to go back once again to my state. I want to especially thank the Indian and Sri Lankan government for thinking about us and providing this opportunity."
The ship has been demarcated into zones to facilitate the evacuees without compromising on social distancing and health protocols issued by the government.
In the final section, allocated teams will escort the evacuees to their designated mess.
Navy officials have formed teams specifically to ensure social distancing among the evacuees. Approximately 700 evacuees would board the naval vessel today. (ANI)