The 28 crew members of the hapless Bangladeshi ship are finally on their way home, having escaped death when the vessel was attacked in Ukraine on March 2.
After a week of ordeals, they are expected to arrive in Dhaka around noon today.
The “missile” attack on “Banglar Samriddhi” claimed the life of one of their teammates, the third engineer Hadisur Rahman. They were rescued from the ship after around 21 long hours and took refuge in a bunker in the war-torn European country.
After two days, they reached Romania via Moldova and departed for Bangladesh from Bucharest on a special flight last night.
Md Daud Ali, Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Romania, told the Daily Star that the 28 crew members will fly from Romania on a special Turkish Airlines flight.
“The crew members will stop over in Istanbul and from there they will fly to Dhaka. Hopefully they will reach Dhaka tomorrow at noon. [today],” he said.
Hadisur’s body is still in Ukraine and efforts are underway to bring the body home, he added.
Although relieved to be safe, they are haunted by the bombing incident and the death of one of their fellow sailors.
The Daily Star spoke to one of the crew who described the whole trip over the phone yesterday from Romania.
On February 22, the ship had departed from the port of Karadeniz Eregli in Turkey for the port of Olvia to carry clay for transport to Italy.
The ship reached the Ukrainian port the very next day.
“Everything was normal when we reached the port. Then on February 24, Russia started invading Ukraine,” the crew member said on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to speak. to the media.
The ship had been stuck in port ever since.
But on March 2, the frustration of being blocked turned to terror and trauma.
“It was around 5:05 p.m. when a missile hit the ship, starting a fire. Our third engineer Hadisur Rahman was talking on the phone on the navigating bridge at the time,” the crew member said.
At this time, the assistant chief engineer, second officer and deck cadet were also on the navigating bridge.
Shortly after the attack, a fire broke out in the ship and all three except Hadisur fled the area.
“I was only 10 feet from Hadisur. I was also talking on the phone. I thought I had lost my limbs. It took me about 30 seconds to regain some composure and realize I wasn’t hurt. The whole ship shook with heavy vibration. We didn’t know then that Hadisur had been killed,” he said.
All crewmen began to extinguish the fire. It took about three hours to bring the fire under control.
Then they went to the engine control room, the lowest level of the ship and considered the safest place.
“As per our rules, the head count started and that’s when we realized Hadisur was missing,” the crew member said in a shaky voice.
All of the crew went to the navigation bridge area to find Hadisur, to find his body.
“I thought he had jumped overboard and was saved but I was wrong. We recovered the body and kept it in the ship’s refrigerator.”
Shortly after the attack, the ship’s electricity cut out as the generator had been damaged.
“We were in the control room all night. It was a horrible time because we were literally out of touch.”
The next day at 2:30 p.m. they were rescued from the ship and taken by tug to a safe bunker.
“We stayed there for two days. We had internet there, but we couldn’t take any of our clothes from the ship with us.”
The government of Bangladesh, with the help of some Bangladeshi expatriates and Ukrainian port authorities, rescued the ship’s crew members.
Before the rescue, the government of Bangladesh sent a letter to the Ukrainian authorities mentioning the abandonment of the ship, which facilitated the process.
The crew members remained in the bunker until March 5. They were supposed to go to the Moldovan border the day before, but they couldn’t for security reasons.
On March 5, they all left for the Moldavian border around 8.15 a.m. on two microbuses. However, it took four hours to get permission from the Ukrainian authorities.
The crew members had to pass through a total of 17 military checkpoints on the way to the Moldovan border and were escorted by Ukrainian soldiers through areas considered to be at risk.
“All the checkpoints were manned by Ukrainian military. They helped us a lot,” the crew member said.
“We entered Palanca in Moldova around 12:20 p.m. on March 6 and arrived at the border between Moldova and Romania around 5:30 a.m. We crossed the Romanian border about an hour later and reached the hotel in Bucharest around 1:00 p.m. ” , did he declare.
He said that during their journey from Ukraine to Romania, immigration officials from Moldova and Romania expressed their sorrow when they heard about the plight of the sailors and helped them quickly cross the border. .
“When we arrived at a hotel in Bucharest, we were extremely tired but relieved to have arrived in a safer place. We have no words to express our gratitude to everyone who worked for our safe return “said the crew member.
On the night of March 7, they went to the Bangladeshi Ambassador to Romania for dinner.
Since the “missile” attack until the arrival at the hotel in Bucharest, none of them could eat a real meal.
“We took dry food with us when we left the ship. We lived four days on biscuits, puffed rice, high protein biscuits, potatoes and wheat which we brought with us. “
“We have all seen death very closely. This is a new life. I cannot express it in words. Please pray for us so that we can return home safely.”