M A I N   N E W S

54 Punjabis back home from Lebanon
Varinder Walia and P.K. Jaiswar

Rajasansi, July 22
As many as 54 Indians, all from Punjab, today arrived at the Rajasansi International Airport, by a special Air India flight (AI-187) from Mumbai, after being evacuated from war-torn Lebanon.

“It was a nightmare… I could not sleep for the past one week…I ran from hell,” said Jagir Singh, a resident of Ladhra village in Ludhiana district, immediately after his arrival.

After spending a lot of money in search of greener pastures in Lebanon, they had to return empty handed, somehow saving their lives, from the war-ravaged region.

They had to leave their property, money and everything they had with them. However, they were still ready to return if conditions improved in that country, which was on the edge of a war.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Kirandip Singh Bhullar, said out of the 54 Indians, as many as 13 were from Jalandhar, 11 from Hoshiarpur,10 from Nawanshahr, five from Moga and four from Bathinda.

Two belonged to Sangrur, four hailed from Kapurthala, three from Ludhiana and one each from Patiala and Faridkot districts, he said.

The district administration made special arrangements for the transportation of these persons to their destinations. They were medically examined and given refreshments also.

It was quite an emotional scene at the airport. A woman kissing her one-year-old granddaughter, Jasleen, who had arrived safely along with her parents, left many with tears in their eyes.

Mr Kamaljit Singh, hailing from Kalyan village in Bathinda, returned along with his wife, Sukhpreet Kaur.

He said the conditions in Lebanon were deteriorating day by day and there were hundreds of Indians stranded there.

He appreciated the steps taken by the Indian Government to get them vacated safely from Lebanon.

Mr Singh said they were brought in a naval ship to Larcana, Cyprus, from where they reached Mumbai. From Mumbai, they were brought to New Delhi and then to Amritsar in a special Air India flight.

Another evacuee, Balwinder Singh, had a different story to tell. He said he had visa valid till November 20 only and had to get it renewed before the date failing which he would not be allowed to return to Lebanon.

Jadish Singh said he was living in Lebanon for more than a decade and had to come back because every now and then the fighter planes of Israel were pounding various areas under Hizbullah control, killing innocents.

Another evacuee Nirbhai Singh came off as a broken man. “I am shattered after what has happened to me and all of us,” he said appearing lost and helpless like many others.

There are an estimated 12,000 Indians and over 90,000 Sri Lankans in Lebanon. Many of the South Asian nationals are unskilled or semi-skilled labourers working in factories, industrial units, or as domestic staff.

The evacuees said many Lebanese were fleeing their homes and thousands of foreigners, mainly westerners, were being evacuated by sea to the neighbouring Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

The “Operation Sukoon” would take more than a week to complete the evacuation.

Another batch of Indians was ready and waiting to board the ships and would be taken to Larcana, Cyprus, at a distance of 120 nautical miles from Lebanon .

The first batch of evacuees comprised 345 Indians, out of which 54 were Punjabis, including three women and three children.

Earlier, three Indian nationals were wounded in an air strike on a glass factory in the eastern Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.





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