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Rescued from pirates, engineer returns home
A 29-year-old city-based marine engineer, who was kidnapped by Nigerian pirates to midsea and rescued after five days, returned to the city on Sunday and was welcomed by his parents at the airport.
A Varunraj of Vetri Nagar in West Tambaram was working for Nigeria-based Sterling Global Oil Resources. He had been in their hopper dredger named MV Ambika.
He went offshore in December, 2018, and had continuously been on board the ship for over a year. On January 2, the ship was attacked by Nigerian pirates while operating just offshore on the Ramos river in Nigeria. A firefight broke out between the security team on Ambika and the pirates. The pirates shot four military armed guards dead before kidnapping Varunraj and two other Russian engineers at gunpoint in a boat attached to the ship.
However, they were stranded midsea as the ship ran out of fuel. While Varunraj and two other victims were struggling without food and water for about five days, they were made to row the boat. “On the sixth day (January 7), we rowed an entire day to reach another ship. When the two pirates negotiated with them to take us to their place, the Nigerian Navy attacked them and rescued us,” said Varunraj. The ship, Ambika, was also retrieved from the pirates.
It was an emotional moment when Varunraj reached Chennai from Delhi on Sunday afternoon and met his parents at the airport. Varunraj’s father Anandhan is a police sub-inspector and his wife Selvakumari is a housewife.
Speaking to the media, Varunraj said that Ramos river is known for piracy activity as at least 150 such incidents were reported in the past one year. “That’s why the Nigerian government had provided the ships with security. Even though there were six armed guards on the ship, they did not anticipate the attack at that time as the ship was still closer to shore,” he said.