Italy shipwreck: 75 Indians return, rest on way

Italy shipwreck: 75 Indians return, rest on way

A near-death experience and the sheer miracle to be alive. Around 75 Indians of the 200 rescued from the sunken Italian cruise ship 'Costa Concordia' returned home Thursday to the relief of their anxious families.

In cheering news for the surviving sailors, the cruise company has agreed to provide a compensation package for them. The remaining survivors are expected Friday, except for one sailor who has decided to stay back in Italy. Only one Indian is missing and efforts have been stepped up to trace him.

The first batch of 15 survivors arrived here in the morning. Thirty-eight reached Mumbai and left for their respective homes close to the city. Nine survivors each reached Chennai and Hyderabad.

The external affairs ministry has set up help desks at the airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad to help families and relatives of those rescued from the ill-fated ship.  There were 203 Indians on board the ship - one passenger and 202 crew members. Of them, 201 Indians were rescued.

Only one Indian, the 33-year-old Robello Russel Terence, is missing. The government has stepped up efforts to trace him.  The Italian luxury liner was carrying more than 4,200 people when it ran aground on a reef off Giglio island in western Italy. More than 60 people were injured in the incident and six killed.

The survivors were relieved to return home and had stories to tell about their ordeal and how lucky they were to be alive and back with their loved ones. Mukesh Kumar, a 26-year-old resident of Hiruwa village of Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu, said he was thankful to god for lucky escape.

“We are lucky to have survived as it was captain’s fault that despite knowing the situation he had ordered for evacuation late when the situation went out of control,” he said. “I am thankful to god that we are safe and happy to be back with our family,” he added.

“We are happy that we are back in our country. But we will go back to join the company as they were very helpful,” said 28-year-old Kandari Surjan Singh Singh. The silver lining to the tragedy of the shipwreck was the compensation package the cruise company agreed to provide to the survivors.

According to the Indian embassy's first secretary Vishwesh Negi, tickets were arranged for most of the crew members to fly home.  "A total of 200 Indians are leaving Italy in the coming two days (Thursday and Friday). Russel Rebello is still missing and his friend Nikhil Mulati has expressed his desire to stay with his wife Teresa in Naples, Italy,” Negi said.

“The cruise company has managed to provide 194 air tickets from Italy to Dubai and then connecting flights to India. The remaining six Indians will leave once they get their air tickets,” he added.

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