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WATCH Indian Navy evacuate ailing French national from merchant ship (VIDEO)

A helicopter was launched in an “ambulance role” upon receipt of an alert message from a French vessel

The Indian Navy on Tuesday evacuated a patient aboard a French-flagged vessel 65 nautical miles off the country’s west coast and carried him to safety, officials said.

The Navy’s ALH MK III (MR) helicopter was launched in an “ambulance role” from INS Shikra upon receipt of an alert message concerning a patient with a “suspected ophthalmic or neurological condition” from the French-flagged container carrier CMA CGM Palais Royal, the official statement noted. Shikra is an Indian naval air station located at Colaba in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Despite the absence of a suitable landing spot on the ship, the patient was “precisely winched up in a rescue basket,” read the statement. The mission was completed successfully, and the helicopter eventually landed at INS Shikra with the patient.

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The rescue comes amid an increased role for the Indian naval force in the Arabian Sea region amid attacks on passing merchant ships by Houthi rebels acting “in solidarity in Gaza” as well as increased activity by Somalian pirates.

In October, the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen, carrying a cargo of metals, was hijacked near the Yemeni island of Socotra while en route from Gwangyang, South Korea. The Indian Navy responded to a distress call, diverting an MPA that was undertaking surveillance in the area and a warship on anti-piracy patrol, to locate the ship. It assisted in the evacuation of an injured crew member from the hijacked vessel.

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READ MORE: India raises ‘grave concerns’ with Iran over Red Sea attacks

Earlier this month, an Indian warship intercepted a Liberia-flagged merchant ship, which had been hijacked in the Arabian Sea off the Somalian coast. The vessel had been kept under continuous surveillance through a combination of maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), MQ9B predator drones, and helicopters after it was boarded by six armed men suspected to be pirates. All crew members, including 15 Indian nationals, were rescued, the Navy said then.

At least five Indian warships are patrolling the Arabian Sea region to secure the vital shipping lane through which nearly 80% of India’s merchandise trade with Europe passes.

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