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Then, all of us were asked to reach the deck and deploy the life rafts — 12 on each side. But as we started inflating them, we realised almost all were damaged.
There was just one functioning life raft. Around 10 people immediately got in. However, even that raft was punctured when it hit the barnacles at the base of the vessel, and the men were thrown into the sea. It all happened in two-three minutes. Those who took that raft haven’t been found still.
Deploying another life raft was out of the question, the sea was too rough. We decided to wait for instructions from a Navy ship, stationed two or three miles from us.
As the rain intensified and visibility got lower, they told us to wait. Pulling the ship close to the barge with the waves so high risked a collision.
But by then, the barge started sinking. It was when it was halfway sunk that reality hit us: we had to abandon ship.
Leaving our luggage behind, we started jumping into the sea one by one.
The barge now was on its back. When the turn came for me and my friends to jump, we were almost 50-60 feet in the air. We looked down at the water and hesitated.
I think I was the last to jump. I was scared. Maybe that’s what saved me too. I saw some of them jumping into the wrong place, and things falling on them.
The distance between the water and the tip of the vessel kept reducing. When it was 10-20 feet, I decided it was time. Thankfully, I jumped into a safe spot. I saw a group of people and swam towards them.
People reassured each other, “Are you okay?”, “It’s alright, we are getting out soon”, “The Navy is here”. We held hands so that the rescue team could spot us easily, our lifejackets had lights on them.
The time was 6.30 pm, I think. It was starting to get dark. When we looked around, we couldn’t spot any ships.