S'pore woman and kids stuck in Yemen

S'pore woman and kids stuck in Yemen
SCARED: Madam Sherin Fathima Syed Abdul Ravoof's four children are terrified with the situation in Yemen.

A Singaporean woman and her four children are stuck in Aden, Yemen, as rebel troops close in on the Middle-Eastern port city.

Madam Sherin Fathima Syed Abdul Ravoof, in her 30s, and her four children, aged between four and 13, have no way out of the country, which is on the brink of civil war.

Countries such as China and India have been evacuating their citizens on naval frigates.

Madam Sherin's neighbours were given space on an Indian navy patrol vessel that can evacuate 150 to 200 people.

But when the Singaporean woman and her children tried to get on board, they were told the ship was full. It was due to set sail early this morning.

A spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday that a larger Indian vessel, with the capacity to carry 1,500 people, will arrive in about five days.

When The New Paper spoke to Madam Sherin over the phone last night, explosions could be heard in the background as she worried about not being allowed on the next Indian vessel.

"If we miss it, we will be stranded and the Houthis would have entered the city then," she said.

Married to a Yemeni national, Madam Sherin and the children moved to Aden only six months ago.

About two weeks ago, her husband went to Saudi Arabia and was shut out when Yemen closed its borders after fighting intensified.

"My kids are terrified because nothing like this ever happens in Singapore," she said. "But I'm trying to find ways to keep them busy so they won't think too much about this."

Power and water supply are now intermittent, with about only two hours of electricity available a day. In those two hours, Madam Sherin charges her mobile phone and power bank.

As the rebels move closer to the city, Madam Sherin said snipers have been positioned on the top of apartment buildings to defend it. Her family here has been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Responding to media queries, an MFA spokesman said the ministry is in close contact with Singaporeans in Yemen, especially those who want to leave the country.

But since Singapore has no diplomatic representation in Yemen, MFA is working with the Malaysian and Indonesian embassies to help evacuate Singaporeans.

Rebel fighters known as the Houthis have taken over large parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, and have been poised to move on to Aden, which is a strategic port city.

Roads out of Aden have been closed since air strikes by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition started about a week ago.

The coalition has vowed to continue the attacks until Houthi rebels end their uprising against President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Saudi Arabia, reported AFP.

This article was first published on April 1, 2015.
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