Siful survived a shipwreck off Libya in which 30 migrants died. The 33-year-old from Bangladesh told us his story.
"Let my family know that I am alive, that I managed to save myself," says Siful, the oldest of three siblings. "I made it, while so many of my fellow travellers drowned before my eyes."
Siful is one of 17 people who were rescued by the merchant ship 'Froland' in the Central Mediterranean. The shipwreck on March 11 off the Libyan coast left 30 people dead. It is the umpteenth tragedy at sea reported by Alarm Phone, a hotline for migrants and refugees in distress in the Mediterranean. Just two weeks before, dozens of people died in a shipwreck off Calabria, southeastern Italy.
The 'Froland' brought Siful and the other survivors -- all Bangladeshi nationals -- to Pozzallo in southwestern Italy on March 13. Siful fractured his leg while trying to climb onto the capsized vessel in his fight for survival. He was taken to the 'Maggiore-Baglieri' hospital in the Sicilian city of Modica to receive medical care.
'They told us there would be water and food but it wasn't true'
When he talks about what happened, he trembles, his eyes downcast. The pain and horror are visible in his drawings, in the things he writes to describe what happened.
"There were 47 of us, all men, on an old, eight-meter boat that couldn't hold everyone," he says, holding back tears. He says that a few hours after leaving Libya, weather conditions deteriorated.
"The sea was getting rougher and rougher. Some people wanted to turn back. We were crammed together, it was very cold and the waves made me feel sick. The cold was unbearable. When traffickers made us board, they told us there would be water and food [on the boat but] it wasn't true."
'I saw many disappear beneath the waves'
Then, their boat capsized due to the rough sea.
"Everyone was shouting and calling for help. I clung to the wreckage with the force of desperation, but many didn't know how to swim and I saw them disappear beneath the waves. We were trying to encourage each other, someone will come to save us, we raised the alarm by phone," he recalls. "Then the ship came."
Siful says that the trip had been planned for a while. "I reached Libya from Bangladesh in just a few days spending $1,000, earned after years of work and paid to a trafficker. In my country I worked as a carpenter for a living, but I always dreamed of reaching Italy," he says. "Now I only hope to be able to hug my family again."