Jonathan Paturi, one of the survivors of the Costa Concordia cruise liner, shares his harrowing experience.
"Being a survivor of a ship disaster is not an exhilarating feeling. Two days after my ship, the Costa Concordia, ran aground into a reef off the Tuscan coast of Italy, all I can think of is about the six people who lost their lives, and my mates in the crew who barely made it to safety but lost everything they had in the process, everyhing but the clothes on their back.
Looking back to that traumatic Friday evening, I wonder how much like the Titanic disaster it was. Just like the Titanic, the Costa Concordia was a luxury liner. We were hosting 4,200 holiday makers. And just like the Titanic, we were serving dinner to our guests when disaster struck. Only, the Titanic struck an iceberg and we ran into a reef.
It was 9.30 p.m. Friday evening. Friday, the 13th, I’m now told. Five of my mates -- chefs, all from Hyderabad -- and I were cooking dinner for the passengers. Suddenly we felt the ship tilt over. Such moments do occur on a ship, so we thought it was one of them. Then the crew-only alarm went off: Delta X-Ray. It meant the ship was taking in water. Then another alarm was sounded: India Victor. It meant there was a fire in the ship and that passengers had to be moved to safety.
The ship began to list even more, and I saw food sliding down the counter. Yes, just like in the Titanic movie. Then there was a complete blackout. I fought down the panic rising within me. I called my cousin and told him about the situation. He told me to be brave. I told him, “I’ll call you if I’m alive.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt that I might never see my loved ones again.
We started moving the passengers to deck 4, where all the life boats were. There were about 26 life boats, which could hold 150 people. We were thankful that a rescue team from the nearby island was at hand. We could rescue about 700 people in three trips, and by the time, we could go back for the fourth, the ship had nearly tipped over.
The survivors were ferried early Saturday to a Porto Santo Stefano on the Italian mainland. My mates -- about 200 of them are Indian -- and I are now at a hotel on the outskirts of Rome. Our documents, passports, money have been lost. We have to start from scratch now."