Airstrikes in Yemen
An armed man walks on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike near Sanaa Airport on March 26, 2015. Reuters

India is sending ships to Yemen to evacuate thousands of Indian workers stranded in the Arab country where Saudi-led airstrikes bombed targets of the Shiite Houthi rebels this week, Agence France-Presse reported Friday. Some 3,500 Indian nationals are still working in Yemen, many of whom are nurses from the southwest state of Kerala.

“[Foreign] minister Sushma Swaraj has said that India will send two ships to evacuate Indians who are trapped there,” India’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy of Kerala said in a statement Thursday, according to AFP. “As the airports are closed, the plan is to bring these people in ships to neighboring country of Djibouti and from there they will be brought to India by air.” Those who cannot leave Yemen by ship will be driven to Saudi Arabia, according to AFP.

India’s government this week asked all Indian nationals working in Yemen to leave as fighting escalated and the country plunged into turmoil. Workers complained hospital authorities had seized their passports and other documents, preventing them from leaving the conflict-torn country.

An Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebellion overtook the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, causing the Saudi-backed Sunni president to flee the country, Reuters reported. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of more than 10 countries conducting or assisting with strikes against the Shiite Houthis and allied militia, who are seeking to control the country and oust Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia began the air campaign early Thursday and bombed Houthi-held Sanaa. Rights group Amnesty International said at least six children under the age of 10 were among a reported 25 people killed in Thursday’s bombardment.