| Supporters of the hardline faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference scuffle with police at an anti-Israel protest in Srinagar on Friday. (AFP)
New Delhi, July 21: On a day an overcrowded Beirut port frustrated Indian evacuation efforts, news came of the first Indian death in war-ravaged Lebanon.
Delhi confirmed that Devesh Kumar Swain of Orissa, one of four Indians working in the Maliban glass factory in Bekaa valley, had died after the building was struck in Israeli shelling three days ago.
The good news was that the first batch of 342 evacuees ' of the about 600 shipped out to Cyprus by INS Mumbai yesterday ' arrived in Chennai on an Air-India 747-400 tonight while the rest were on their way to Mumbai on another flight. But Swain’s death put a check on the sense of relief.
Swain and his three Indian colleagues had all gone missing after the hit, but the other three ' who include one from Bengal ' were later found in hospital.
Kalpanath Singh Yadav had minor injuries and was evacuated yesterday. S.K. Virdi of Bangalore and Dilip Kumar Manna of Bengal are likely to be discharged in about three days, sources said.
Foreign ministry officials said the Indian embassy in Beirut was trying to trace Swain’s body and send it back home.
Delhi is reluctant to lodge a protest with the Israeli government over Swain’s death, saying the incident took place in a hostile environment.
A foreign ministry spokesperson said Swain’s death was very unfortunate but there was little scope for diplomatic intervention.
Delhi, however, had protested to Tel Aviv when an Indian soldier working for a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon was wounded in Israeli shelling.
No Indian ship was able to get a berth at the Beirut port today. Officials said it might be a couple of days before any of the three naval ships stationed off the Lebanese coast ' INS Shakti, INS Betwa and INS Brahmaputra ' could enter the port.
Officials said tonight’s Air-India flights from Larnaca in Cyprus, which brought back the Indian evacuees, were delayed because INS Mumbai could not reach Larnaca in time. Air-India will send the planes back after more Indians are shifted to Cyprus
The embassy in Beirut is processing the requests of 400 more Indians who wish to leave the war zone.
Officials said the number was increasing by the hour and they were struggling to keep track of all the Indian expatriates, most of whom never registered themselves and were scattered all over the country. There are about 12,000 Indians in Lebanon, mostly unskilled labourers.
Nepal today sought Delhi’s help in evacuating its citizens. Sri Lanka has already made a similar request.