HA NOI — Vo Thi Nhi, 46, sat anxiously nibbling a few pieces of bread for lunch as she waited patiently inside Noi Bai International Airport for the flight bringing her son back home.
|A sailor was welcomed by his family as he arrived at Noi Bai International Airport on Tuesday along with 11 other seamen who were held by Somali pirates for 19 months. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tung
Luu Dinh Hung was one of 12 sailors working on a Taiwanese cargo ship that was attacked by Somali pirates nearly two years ago.
"The thought of pirates pointing the gun at my son made me shiver," she said. "Our family listened to the news every day, but we couldn't get any information at all about our son."
Amid the desperation, the family, from Nghi Loc in central Nghe An Province, received two phone calls from Hung. This gave them a glimpse of his situation. He and others were locked up on an island, fed only occasionally and often threatened with death.
On Saturday, Nhi received a call from her son and the news that the sailors were about to return home.
The 12 seamen landed in Ha Noi Tuesday afternoon and were greeted with an outpouring of happiness from family members. The media went into a frenzy over the details of their 19-month ordeal.
Nguyen Van Tam from Ky Anh District, central Ha Tinh Province, recalled that the 12 were provided with a total of three to four kilos of rice a day, but it had to be cooked in sparse supplies of extremely dirty water.
"We didn't have clean water and could only take a bath every two to three months. Now all of us have skin problems," Tam said.
His eyes still show the horror of the months in captivation. "All of us were beaten and some had guns pointed at their heads," he said.
According to the sailors, as part of the arranged rescue on July 17, the pirates dropped them on the beach several kilometres from the hide-out of the pirates, who feared an attack.
As had been planned, a Chinese naval ship picked them up and took them to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.
According to Nguyen Xuan Tao, from the Department of Overseas Labour Management, all sailors are now in reasonable health.
Tao said the department would request their employers to pay them 18 months' back pay.
The 12 Vietnamese were working on Taiwan's vessel Shiuh Fu No. 1 when it was attacked by Somali pirates on December 31, 2010. — VNS