'Technically, the life boats cannot be launched till the captain orders but the situation was such that we launched them without any orders and began ferrying passengers to the coast.'
A rough sea and the resultant roll of the ship is a routine affair for sailors. But when Costa Concordia was rolling violently, the crew suspected something was wrong. When ships tilt to one side, they would automatically straighten up again. But the luxury liner did not.
“It continued to tilt. We knew something was seriously wrong. By the time we rushed to the emergency boats, passengers were already lined up there. I can't forget those moments,” recalls Jonathan Paturi, a third chef of Costa Concordia that ran aground off Giglio island of Italy on Friday evening.
Mr. Paturi, a third chef on the luxury cruise, told The Hindu over phone from Rome that there were about 300 Indians working on the luxury liner and eight hailed from Andhra Pradesh. There were four or five Indian passengers too.
“As sirens began blaring we rushed out and launched the life boats. Technically, the life boats cannot be launched till the captain orders but the situation was such that we launched them without any orders and began ferrying passengers to the coast. The passengers were terrified but cooperated with us by following instructions,” Mr. Paturi recalled.
With power failing, the kitchen crew rushed to the deck using the light from their mobile phone screens. “We could feel the ship hitting the rock. Then we rushed to the top.”
Mr. Paturi and his eight colleagues from Hyderabad manned some of the life boats and shifted the passengers to the coast. “Help, too, arrived within five minutes.”
The crew which brought passengers to the shore rushed back to the sinking ship to ferry some more. ‘We made four trips. We were told during our training that it would take about four hours for the ship to sink. The ship hit the rock between 10 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. and it began sinking by 12.30 a.m.” The chef said the crew was now being sheltered on the outskirts of Rome.
The local authorities had provided them mobile phones and asked them not to come out of the temporary camp, as they did not have any papers with them. “We are still awaiting the officials of the Indian embassy,” Mr. Paturi said.