CHATTOGRAM: Horror still haunts the surviving crew members of the Bangladeshi-flagged vessel ‘MV Banglar Samriddhi’, which came under a missile attack at a port in Ukraine on March 2.
The traumatised sailors of the vessel are now also confused about their future as the horrifying experiences dog them round the clock.
The vessel’s Chief Engineer, Mohammad Omar Faruk Tuhin, put up different incidents of the period and narrated the horrifying experiences in an interview with the Daily Sun.
Tuhin, who picked the sea-life back in 2000, said he joined ‘MV Banglar Samriddhi’ owned by Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC) around one year back on March 15 last year.
He renewed contact with the BSC six months back and was supposed to sign off after returning from the Ukrainian port.
Tuhin said they reached the inner anchorage of Olvia port of Ukraine around 9:00pm (Bangladesh Time) on February 23 from Turkey for loading ‘ball clay’.
They were waiting call from the port for taking berth at the port jetty. But, they heard a big bang and noticed mushroomed cloud of bombing some two kilometres off their vessel in the following morning.
The local authorities suspended the port activities at that time and more bad news started reaching to them as they got stuck there.
They couldn’t proceed through the port-channel, thanks to lack of local pilot and the reported placing of naval mines throughout the way. Some other adjacent vessels also warned them of bombing during the period.
The situation prompted them to get prepared for the possible attack while they had food and other necessary items for the next two months, said Tuhin.
“We curtailed tasks on the vessel deck and kept the fire fighting equipment ready as part of precaution. We used to hear blasts in nearby areas regularly, especially in the night hours,” he added. “We passed the sleepless nights fearing many bad things and memorising the dear and near ones in the country,” said the seaman.
The nightmare came true around 5:15pm on March 02.
“I was seated on prayer-mat just after offering Asr prayer. A missile directly hit the control bridge of our vessel at the moment. I experienced a huge shake following the attack,” Tuhin said while narrating the awful experience.
“I just changed my dress and came out of room and found the passage full of smoke following the fire originated after the attack. I also knocked other officials. Then, we went to the bridge area and conducted a head-count,” he said.
“We found third engineer Hadisur Rahman missing at that time and got engaged in fire fighting immediately. We doused the fire after a frantic effort of some two hours,” the chief engineer said.
“Later, we found the charred body of Hadisur lying in the damaged bridge area and preserved it at the freezer, usually used for meat and fish.”
“The missile attack intensified our fear several times and none of the crew wanted to stay at the ship more. But, there was also no way to leave without help of tugboat of the port,” he said.
“As the news spread, high officials of the departments concerned of Bangladesh government started communicating with us and assured our safe departure.”
“It was tough for us to pass every second of the unprecedented situation. There were four crew members including two female cadets for whom this was the first voyage. We even couldn’t eat then and survived taking only fruits,” he said memorising the days.
“But, a ray of hope was seen after a tug boat reached the vessel around 8:30pm on the following day. Our embassies in Poland and Romania, and local Bangladeshis did a great job through the arrangement of the tug boat for us.”
Spelling out the incident, the mariner said the tugboat took them to a safe bunker within 30 minutes from the vessel and they heaved a sigh of relief for a while. They stayed there with the help of the Bangladeshis and some locals.
“We attempted to move toward the Romania through Moldova in the morning of March 4. But, we couldn’t proceed due to airstrikes in the nearby areas,” he said.
“Finally, we started around 8:00am on March 5 and reached Moldova border after a 13-hour drive through the war-ravaged Ukraine. The concerned Bangladesh Embassies made smooth arrangements for us at every points of way,” said the seafarer.
They crossed the Moldova border around 7:30am on the following day and reached the hotel at the Romanian capital Bucharest in the afternoon.
Tuhin informed that they started for Bangladesh by a flight of Turkish airlines on the night of March 8.
“I still cannot sleep. Any sound nearby shakes my heart. I cannot forget the days for a moment. It will take time for me to go back to normal life,” said Tuhin having an experience of 22 years in sea-life.
“I can’t think about any more sea voyage. I also may not continue the voyage,” said the frightened seafarer.
Mentionable, the stranded sailors reached the country on Wednesday.
The body of Hadisur Rahman, hailing from Betagi upazila in Barguna, was on the way to the country.