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It was at that point I realised that I was all alone. There was no one and I had lost sight of the ship. It was pitch dark. Gradually, the lights on my lifejacket went out.
At that point, I thought I was going to die.
I had the weird feeling that the waves were taking me to the heart of the cyclone.
I decided to gather up my strength and swim. I played out a couple of scenarios in my mind. Maybe I will get washed up in Gujarat. Or Oman. I might find a platform nearby, find shelter there, or maybe get help in the morning.
But one thought I constantly had was about death. I might die of hunger and fatigue. With that thought, I tried to get some sleep, before a wave whipped my face only 30 seconds later. This kept repeating till 5.30 or 6 in the morning.
As daylight broke, I spotted a ship. With all my might, I tried to swim towards it. I had my whistle. I blew it.
The ship honked, probably acknowledging my efforts. It came towards me and turned a little to reveal a rescue zone, with several people and a ladder at bay.
But I was too weak by now. I turned around and saw I had another ship behind me. It was the Navy. I was between two ships, and a Navy chopper was flying above me. That’s when I knew I was getting out of here.
The rescuers pulled me out somehow. But the worst was yet to hit me. Bodies that were yet to be identified waited for me. More than the trauma I had just endured, it was the death of my close friends that shook me.
I also saw a couple of my friends who had made it. We hugged. But I am still waiting to hear from the rest of them.
Eralil, 27, is among the 261 survivors of barge P305, that sank following Cyclone Tauktae. As of Friday, more than 50 crew members were confirmed dead, and 15 were still missing.
As told to Meera Kalyani, Kochi