Kochi: Back to the shores after being rescued by the Coast Guard, the 16 Iranian and Pakistan crew of a fishing boat, which was adrift near Lakshadweep after the Somali pirates abandoned it, profusely thanked India for saving their lives.
'We salute the Indian government and Indian Coast Guard for saving our lives and helping us', was how Mohammed Kadar Baksh, hailing from Karachi in Pakistan, told reporters in an emotion choked voice on board the Coast Guard vessel 'Varuna', which brought them here on Tuesday.
The crew, all looking tired and haggard, said they were happy to have been rescued.
The crew, 13 Iranians and three Pakistanis - were rescued from the boat 'al-Husaini' which was captured by Somali pirates off Socotra, a small archipelago of four islands and islets in the Indian Ocean about 240 km east of Somalia on May 16 and abandoned on June 10 after taking away food and fuel.
'We were at the mercy of Allah', Baksh said as he narrated how they were captured by the 14-odd Somali pirates soon after they set off from Konarak, Chahabar in Iran on May 16 for the Somalian waters for fishing, estimating 30-40 days of voyage.
Narrating their ordeal, Baksh, who spoke in Hindi, said heavily armed pirates, about 15 of them, terrorised the crew, operated the fishing boat for about 25 days and disembarked taking away their provisions and water.
'The pirates made our cook to prepare food, which they used to eat up. Whatever little was left, they used to give us.'
When they left, there was only Little rice, flour and dirty water. They had taken away the provisions, he said.
Soon after the pirates left, Baksh said they informed their owner through a satellite phone.
The crew said they asked for help from merchant ships passing by. One of the ships gave them the number of the Coast Guard, he said adding they drifted for 10 days and were relieved to see the Dornier aircraft of the coast guard. They assured that help was near.
Coast guard DIG Commander TKS Chandran said Varuna located the fishing boat around 5am on June 22 and communication was established with it.
Intelligence agencies and state police have been informed and they would be questioning the crew, he said their respective embassies had also been informed.