Costa survivors from City recall the horror

Costa survivors from City recall the horror

Great escape

HOMECOMING Shipwreck survivors Vinod Kumar Keshavamurthy and Bashir Iftikhar Ahmed at Bangalore International Airport on Thursday. DH Photo / BK JanardhanWhen Bashir Ifthikar Ahmed and Vinod Kumar Keshavamurthy walked out of the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) on Thursday, there were no anxious and cheering families waiting to greet them.

That was surprising, considering they had survived the ordeal on Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise liner which grounded off the coast of Italy near the island of Giglio. The reason was simple. In between all the travelling, their coordination with different agencies and plans to return, they decided it was better to surprise their families instead.

“My family does not know if I am alive or dead. I have not called them at all after the rescue. I just want to surprise them,” a grinning Vinod said of his wife and two children.

The 27-year-old was working as an assistant waiter on the cruise ship for the last three years and the last thing Vinod expected was to struggle for his life and emerge unscathed. “I can talk about it and laugh now. But I saw death so closely for the first time in my life.

This is a rebirth for me,” he laughed. On a sober note, Vinod said he still does not have any information about the four other crew members who disappeared in the melee. “I checked even today. There is no trace of them.” Basha (32), who hails from R T Nagar has been working with the cruise company for the last seven years, but despite all the training he found himself struggling to make sense of what happened.

“When the first sound came everybody panicked and then the captain announced that it was a technical problem. When the second sound came much louder and hard, we knew something was really wrong. Soon enough, the captain announced that we had to abandon the ship. By then, the guests who were having dinner found their cutlery and plates flying all over the place and everybody panicked. It all happened so fast,” he recounted.

Speaking of accusations by some of the guests that some of the crew members were more intent on helping themselves than the guests, Basha carefully said, “There were more than 3,000 guests and more than 1,000 crew members. Everybody would have had different experiences and there is a big difference in what was reported and what actually happened. Some would have been helped earlier, while others might have been rescued a little later. But I can tell you that all those who were noticed were immediately rescued.”

The duo were rescued about three hours after the grounding of the ship and taken to the island of Giglio. “One of the first things I did was call my family in Bangalore to say I was safe. Of course, I had to tell them that I had lost all my luggage,” smiled Basha.

The two stayed in Tuscany and then moved to Rome. From Rome, they took a flight through Dubai to Bangalore, where they were met by the officials of the Ministry of
External Affairs. Both the city residents now plan to take a long break before deciding on the future course of action. While Basha is uncertain if he will ever get back on a ship, Vinod gave an emphatic ‘no.’

The Regional Passport Office, Bangalore has established a helpdesk at the Bangalore International Airport headed by V Sekar, Assistant Passport Officer, to coordinate with the Customs, Immigration, Airport and Protocol authorities for assistance and speedy clearance of the sailors.

The Indians are arriving in two batches of 84 and 116 passengers on Thursday and Friday. 

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