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Indian nurses at Yemen-Saudi border: 'Are we safe here?'

May 08, 2015 15:35 IST

'In my hospital, there must be at least 150, 200 Indian nurses. There are other hospitals nearby, and my calculation is that there may be at least 600, 700 Indian nurses working there.'

'All of us are worried. I want the Indian government to help us get out of here,' says an Indian nurse working at a maternity hospital in the Saudi Arabian city of Najran which was shelled early this week by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militants.

Image: Fire rages in Najran town after the shelling by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militants. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Nitin Gokhale/Twitter

The Saudi Arabian border city of Najran had been unaffected by the ongoing war in Yemen.

But earlier this week, Iran-backed Houthi militia fired rockets and mortar shells from the Yemeni border.

The attack was the first major offensive against a Saudi city since the Saudi-led campaign of airstrikes began in March against the Houthi militia.

Agencies reports said, quoting tribal leaders, that at least two civilians were killed in the attack and five Saudi soldiers were captured by the Houthi militants.

Kayal Vizhi, 27, works as a nurse at a maternity hospital in Najran.

She is perturbed by reports of shelling that have been reaching her ears through hostel-mates who work in hospitals across the city.

She says at least 200 Indian nurses, who work at her hospital, are anxious and eager to return home, if only someone could tell them what really is happening on the streets of Najran.

She spoke to Shobha Warrier/ over the telephone from Najran.

Image: Smoke billows from an area in Najran targeted by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militants. Photograph: Kayal Vizhi

"I am from Kallakurichi in Salem, Tamil Nadu. My mother is a government school teacher and my father runs a driving school.

Till four days ago, things were functioning quite normal here. Suddenly, we came to know from some of our local friends that there had been blasts in some areas in Najran.

A friend of mine working at a hospital told me that around 25, 35 injured people had been brought there ever since and at least 5, 6 people had died.

We do not get general patients here as ours is a maternity hospital.

My friend, whose room is opposite mine in the hostel, called all of us to her room and said that blasts were happening in the city.

When we looked through the window, we could hear ambulances and police vehicles rushing.

After that, everyday we see helicopters moving around in this area every half an hour.

It is not a sight we have seen before.

Though I have not seen or heard any blast yet, the situation is slightly frightening here.

Image: Remains of a structure that came under shelling from the Yemeni border. Photograph: Kayal Vizhi

We have not been allowed to go outside the hospital compound for the last four days.

Earlier, we used to go outside for shopping. But now we are forbidden by the hospital authorities to step outside the hospital.

When we ask them what was happening, they do not tell us the complete truth. Their only advise is, be ready for any eventuality -- which is emergency patients coming to our hospital too.

One of my friends, a Saudi local, showed me some pictures on her phone and told me that those were of the blasts that happened in Najran.

She said she was moving away from Najran with her children for safety.

Another Saudi friend told us that her relatives had been evacuated from the area which had been bombed.

None of the television channels or newspapers tell us what exactly is happening; they only say that the war is going on.

We feel the real truth is being hidden from the people; we do not know why they are doing so.

A friend of mine has approached our embassy in Riyadh; they have promised to ascertain the situation here.

We do not know whether we are safe here or not.

It is not that we are not taken care of; we are given water, food etc by the hospital.

But are we safe here?

If the war hits Najran and if more blasts occur here, nobody will be safe.

If that is so, we want to go back to India.

Image: There is tension among the Indian nurses ever since the shelling began. Photograph: Kayal Vizhi

As the domestic airport has been closed, no flights take off from here.

My termination papers are all ready and I am ready to go back to India in two weeks's time on May 22. I can go by road to Riyadh to catch my flight to India.

I am coming back permanently to India to get married on June 4 (Kayal is getting engaged to Banuchandar Kannan, a software engineer working in the United Kingdom on May 29), but I am worried for my friends here.

In my hospital alone, there must be at least 150, 200 Indian nurses working. There are other hospitals too nearby, and my calculation is that there may be at least 600, 700 Indian nurses working there.

All of us are worried, anything can happen any time. I want the Indian government to help us get out of here if there is really a crisis.

Our plea is, at least let us know how the situation is outside. If it is safe, all of us are ready to remain here and work.

We want to know the truth; as we do not know how bad it is outside.

Shobha Warrier /