The first batch of 12 Indians rescued from the ill-fated cruise ship ‘Costa Concordia’, which sank off the Tuscan coast in Italy on January 14, returned on Thursday with 60 others headed to other cities.

“We are lucky to have survived,” they said relieved to be back home after their traumatic experience.

Twelve out of the over 200 Indians rescued from ship were flown to New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport from Italy in an Emirates flight (EK 8512) via Dubai.

The flight arrived at 11.17 AM, but only four of them -- residents of Rajasthan, Uttarkhand and Himchal Pradesh -- came out of Terminal 3.

“Out of the 12, six went to Goa, one each to Lucknow and Gauwahati by domestic flights,” an official from Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs G H Ratra said.

The remaining about 125 rescued Indians will be flown back home tomorrow, Ratra said.

Terming the incident as “unimaginable”, 26-year-old Mukesh Kumar, a resident of Hiruwa village of Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu, said, “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.

“I am thankful to God that we are safe and happy to be back with our family,” he added.

It was an emotional moment when Kumar was greeted by his sister and brother-in-law, who came to receive him at the airport.

“I have no words to describe to see my brother hail and hearty. It was the grace of the God that he and others were saved,” said Kumar’s sister Santosh.

There were a total of 203 Indians were on board the ill-fated ship -- one passenger and 202 crew members. Of them, 201 Indians were rescued and one is missing. One of the rescued, whose wife is an Italian national, has decided to stay back.

Another Indian, 28-year-old Kandari Surjan Singh, who was working for past three year on the ill-fated cruise ship, said prompt action by Italian rescue authorities helped save a number of people. The toll could have been much higher.

“We are happy that we are back in our country. But we will go back to join the company as they were very helpful,” Singh, a resident of Dehradun, said.

Indian embassy was very helpful in providing us Euro 100 each and free airline tickets to fly back, he added.

The External Affairs Ministry has set up help desks at the airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad.

A group of 38 are flying to Mumbai, nine each in Chennai and Hyderabad, three in Bangalore and one in Kolkata, the Ministry officials said.

The luxury liner, Costa Concordia, was carrying more than 4,200 people, many of whom were having dinner at the restaurant when it hit a reef or rock near the Tuscan Island of Giglio last Saturday.

While 11 people on board were killed, 60 were injured. 15 others including crew and passengers were missing.

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