BEIJING, APRIL 8 (Xinhua) -- China wrapped up its evacuation mission Tuesday by dispatching two naval vessels to evacuate the last batch of Chinese nationals from restive Yemen.
In four operations since March 29, a total of 629 Chinese nationals and 279 foreign citizens were successfully evacuated from Yemen aboard Chinese vessels, which could be considered modern "Noah's Arks."
Lending a helping hand to its nationals as well as citizens of 15 other countries in need, China has shown a humanitarian spirit and great responsibility.
The successful evacuation mission reflects a significant growth in China's comprehensive national power, Chinese Ambassador to Yemen Tian Qi said in an interview with Xinhua.
Moreover, the evacuation mission reaffirms the Chinese government's commitment to making its people a top priority, and also demonstrates the Chinese government's decisiveness and efficiency, Tian said.
SWIFT MOVE FOR EVACUATION
On March 26 Saudi-led coalition forces launched air strikes in Yemen against the Shiite Houthi group. The air campaign has led to the suspension of all commercial flights at airports across the country. Only a few airports are open for charter planes.
Therefore, preparation for the evacuation in Aden was extremely difficult due to the intensive exchange of fire between warring parties, Tian said.
The Chinese Embassy decided immediately after a brief ceasefire to begin the operation one day earlier on March 29, Tian said, adding that the original plan was to start the missions in Aden and al-Hodayda both on March 30.
The first group of 122 Chinese nationals was evacuated from the Yemeni city of Aden and arrived in Djibouti on the night of March 29 onboard Linyi, which also took two foreign employees of Chinese enterprises.
On March 30, 449 Chinese citizens and six foreigners got on the Weifang missile frigate in al-Hodayda and left for Djibouti.
"We made a very detailed plan before the evacuation in al-Hodayda. And it only took about half an hour for over 400 people to embark on the warship, more than one hour earlier than the estimated time," Tian said.
SECURING SAFETY OF NATIONALS
Due to the worsening security condition in Yemen, workers remaining at the Chinese Embassy also left the country after assisting the last batch of Chinese nationals to evacuate. The embassy has been temporarily closed.
"The security situation has worsened in Sanaa these days. There was almost constant bombing during the daytime and explosions could also be heard at night ... But the moment I embarked on Linyi, my nerves were at ease. We are really grateful for what the government has done for us," an engineer from a Chinese construction company told Xinhua after getting off the ship.
"The more capable our country becomes, the safer we feel when we are working overseas," said Wang Yunlong, vice manager of the Yemen bureau of leading Chinese telecom equipment and solution provider Huawei.
"The moment I saw the naval vessel, I felt at home," said Zhang Hongbin, a worker who was involved in the construction of the national library in Yemen, which was a project aided by the Chinese government.
This was the first time that Linyi has picked up evacuees at the port of al-Hodayda, said Chinese military official Jiang Guoping. "The evacuation operation was a smooth one, thanks to thorough preparations by the Chinese Embassy in Yemen. We are pleased to see the evacuees safely arriving at their destination," the official said.
"THANK YOU, CHINA"
In addition to helping its own citizens, the Chinese Linyi frigate, in a separate move to assist the evacuation of foreign citizens stranded in Yemen at the request of 10 countries, returned to Aden port on April 2 and evacuated 225 foreign citizens, including 176 Pakistanis, 29 Ethiopians, five Singaporeans, four Poles, three Italians, three Germans, two Britons, one Canadian, one Irish national and one Yemeni.
At the end of last month, Chinese warships also helped eight nationals of Romania, India and Egypt to depart while evacuating Chinese citizens.
For those embarking on the Chinese boat, hope and relief led the way back home.
"The air strikes in Yemen really scared all of us," said Usaca Perera, a Sri Lankan who served as the liaison person coordinating the evacuation of more than 40 Sri Lankan citizens.
In Yemen, Perera said he had also asked for help from another country which had plans to evacuate its citizens. "They simply turned us down and did not show the least care about our lives," Perera said.
"But China is totally different. After receiving our request, Chinese diplomats immediately contacted us and treated us in the same way as Chinese citizens," he said."It's so reassuring to have a powerful China as our friend. On behalf of my compatriots, I thank the Chinese government."
Fathima Abdul Cader, a Sri Lankan woman, and her husband were also among the passengers. The 40-year-old said she had a very pleasant experience during the voyage.
To Natnail, a 10-year-old Ethiopian boy, fleeing Yemen means he will be able to ride his bike on the streets again.
"I don't like it here (Yemen). It's dangerous. I cannot ride my bike on the streets. I'm so happy to see the Chinese boat," said the boy, pushing a bicycle through a security checkpoint before boarding the ship.
"It can take me home," the boy said, referring to the vessel.
The frigate impressed many on board, giving them a unique and unforgettable experience. "I love this boat. The soldiers are kind," said Areel, a 12-year-old Pakistani girl. "It's the first time that I am traveling by boat from country to country. It's so exciting."
"I feel so comfortable with what they have done on the ship. They provide us not only with food and necessities, but also entertainment. I didn't expect this. It is so nice to get to know Chinese people. Thank you, China," she said.
"China helping other countries to evacuate their citizens demonstrates a spirit of internationalism and humanitarianism," Tian said.
"We are grateful to the government of China, the people of China, the navy of China, for bringing our people safely to Djibouti," Pakistan's ambassador to Ethiopia, Imran Yawar, told Xinhua when receiving his compatriots in Djibouti.
Meanwhile, Djibouti's foreign minister, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, said he was "deeply touched" because "China not only helps its own citizens, but also citizens from other countries."
"Humanitarianism should firstly be a collective effort. I think other countries should follow the example of China," Youssouf said.