KUALA LUMPUR - The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has deployed two Hercules C-130 aircraft to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to evacuate Malaysians in war-hit Yemen.
Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said the planes departed at 8.20pm and 8.55pm on Tuesday from the Subang airbase along with 43 personnel.
"The planes will be stationed in UAE to evacuate Malaysians in the neighbouring countries.
"We planned and coordinated this evacuation since the unrest in Yemen unfolded," he told a press conference.
So far, 154 Malaysians have been evacuated from Yemen, departing from Jeddah for Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Over 500 Malaysians are currently awaiting evacuation in Yemen.
"As the situation there is not improving, we advised Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that this is the right moment to move forward. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has given his blessings.
"We urge our citizens in Yemen to give their full co-operation and support our efforts in ensuring their safe return.
"The safety of all Malaysians at this moment remains our top priority," Jen Zulkifeli stressed.
He said there were about 70 Malaysian students in Aden and 600 at Hadhramaut, adding that some from Hadhramaut had already moved to Oman.
"RMAF is aware that the situation in Aden is critical. We are working with our embassy there and the National Security Council to try to move the Malaysians out," he said, adding that the level of security at each district varied.
Syed Asyraf Al Qhadri Syed Zain, 19, who is majoring in Arabic in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a, said he would never forget the sight and sound of bombs exploding, jet fighters hovering in the air and missiles being fired when air strikes entered its peak after evening prayers.
"It was as if the whole sky was bathed in light," he said on arrival at the KL International Airport from Jeddah yesterday morning.
He said although the house he was renting and place of study was not far from the focal point of the attack, the situation was safe.
Syed Asyraf was among 47 Malaysians staying in the restive regions of Sana'a and Hodeidah who were brought home by Malaysia Airlines.
Sharing the same feelings was Dr Nor Azian Hasnan who said when the first explosion sounded, she and some friends thought it was thunder because the area where they lived in Sana'a was rain-prone.
Nor Azian, 48, who was pursuing Arabic language training for three months in the city, said she began to worry only after being informed that it was an air attack.
"The air-strike was launched on March 26 and we were transferred to reach Jizan which is about 300km by bus," said the mother of five who operates a clinic at Taman Sri Andalas in Klang.