China sends warship to evacuate over 500 Chinese nationals from Yemen

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - China has sent a naval fleet to help evacuate more than 500 Chinese diplomats, medical workers and students from conflict-ridden Yemen as the situation worsens, the Ministry of National Defence announced on Monday.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy fleet, which had been carrying out escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters since 2008, was dispatched for the evacuation on Sunday, according to the ministry.

There are about 590 Chinese nationals in Yemen and no one has been hurt so far, said Chinese ambassador to Yemen Tian Qi. They include embassy personnel, overseas students, 58 medical workers, three journalists and technicians from Chinese companies in oil exploration, communication and other industries in Yemen.

The decision was made by the Chinese government in a bid to protect the safety of Chinese nationals and their property, a statement announcing the deployment said.

The naval fleet is made up of missile frigates Linyi and Weifang, and the supply ship Weishanhu, which has two helicopters and more than 700 troops.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed China has begun preparations for evacuating Chinese nationals from Yemen while attending the annual Boao Forum for Asia conference in Hainan province on Sunday, assuring that all Chinese nationals soon be on their way home.

Violence has been spreading in Yemen as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels battle Saudi-supported government loyalists for control of the country, sparking fears of a civil war that could lead to a regional conflict. Both the United States and United Kingdom had shut down their embassies as early as February.