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Fleeing war-torn Yemen, Chinese, foreign nationals share the same boat

Updated: 2015-04-07 13:25

DJIBOUTI - It's a grand sea escape from conflict-ridden Yemen. Since late March, hundreds of Chinese and foreign nationals have been brought to safety in four rescue missions. They all share the same Chinese boat.

"China gave me a new life," said a grateful Fridous while stepping off the Chinese missile frigate, which took her and her three children to peaceful Djibouti after completing a run from Yemen.

The Pakistani woman was among the 279 foreign citizens of 15 countries who were evacuated from Yemen onboard the Chinese warship in recent days.

The evacuation marked the first time that China has helped evacuate foreigners from scenes of an overseas crisis.

For those embarking on the Chinese boat, hope and relief led the way back home.

"The airstrikes 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 their citizens. "They simply turned us down and did not show the least care about our lives."

"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," he said to Xinhua. "On behalf of my compatriots, I thank the Chinese government."

To Natnail, a 10-year-old Ethiopian boy, fleeing Yemen means he will be able to ride his bike on the street, again.

"I don't like it here (Yemen). It's dangerous. I cannot ride the bike on the street. I'm so happy to see the Chinese boat," said Natnail, pushing a bicycle through a security checkpoint before boarding the ship.

"It can take me home. I can ride the bike in my country. It's safe there," the boy told Xinhua.

The frigate impressed many on board, giving them an unique and unforgettable experience. "I love this boat. The soldiers are kind, " said Areel, a 12-year-old Pakistan girl. "It's the first time that I travel by boat from country to country. It's so exciting."

Pakistani Gamran Ali and his family had a two-day ordeal in Yemen before finally reaching the Chinese warship.

"We are comfortable here. We are safe now. We are very thankful to Chinese team. They are giving us shelter and service. We are very happy now," Ali told Xinhua, holding his seven-year-old son by hand.

After taking her meal in the cafeteria, a Pakistani girl who had hearing disabilities expressed her gratitude without words. With a big smile on her face, she gave a thumb-up to the Chinese chefs and shook hands with every one of them.

While receiving his compatriots in Djibouti, Pakistan's ambassador to Ethiopia Imran Yawar told Xinhua: "We are grateful to the government of China, the people of China, the navy of China, for doing this thing to bring our people safely in Djibouti."

Djibouti's Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said he was "deeply touched" because "China not only helps her own citizens, but also citizens from other countries."

"Humanitarian move should firstly be a collective effort. I think other countries should follow the example of China,"said Youssouf.

Before boarding the Chinese warship, 40-year-old Fathima Abdul Cader of Pakistan had worked in Yemen with her husband for five years.

"We had such a great time on the ship. The seamen provided us food and other necessities, even entertainment," she told Xinhua. "On the ship, we all forgot about the hard times. I will forever remember this moment."

"Now I'm one step closer to home. Thank you, China," she said.

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