More than 400 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, stranded on boats in coronavirus-hit Iran, have urged the central government to airlift them from the middle east country where the lethal disease has killed over 50 people, infected nearly 1,000.
In an SOS video, the fishermen - stranded on Iran's Kish Island - can be heard making desperate calls for help, seeking urgent intervention. Their food and fuel supplies are running out, they say, adding they don't even have masks to protect themselves. They can be heard speaking in Tamil.
These fishermen, who went from Dubai to Iran, have food for next two-three days, Johnson, an activist from Kanyakumari is heard saying in a clip. "Even if one person gets affected, it means, you forget rest of the 400 hundred people. There is an airport close to Kish island. They can be easily airlifted," he adds.
"Hope the central government, state government take action immediately," he says.
While Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami has already raised the issue with the central government, families in distress say they are yet to get some help.
Similar appeals have been made by around 60 fishermen from Kerala, who are stuck in Azalur. "We are stranded at Azalur in Iran. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in this country, we are confined to our rooms and cannot leave," a man says in an SOS video on social media, as he pans around to show around 21 fishermen standing in a room.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar saying hundreds of Indian fishermen are trapped in Iran's Azalur - of which around 60 are from Kerala.
Last week, hundreds of Kashmiri students stranded in the country had sent out a desperate appeal for evacuation.
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar last night said that the government is working towards facilitating return of the stranded Indians. "Working on the issue of Indians in Iran anxious to return due to #COVID19. Have seen many tweets in this regard. We are collaborating with the Iranian authorities to set up a screening process for return of Indians. (1/2)," he wrote in a tweet.
Working on the issue of Indians in Iran anxious to return due to #COVID19. Have seen many tweets in this regard. We are collaborating with the Iranian authorities to set up a screening process for return of Indians. (1/2)— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 1, 2020
The deadly coronavirus, which originated in China, has spread to over 60 countries in the last two months. Over 3,000 people have died, more than 80,000 have been infected across the world by the disease declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.