With only a liter of water to share every day, the 28 crewmen of Naham 3, among them Filipinos, spent the last four and a half years in torment — hunting rats for food, enduring violence from their Somali captors, and watching fellow captives die.
“The pirates are worse than animals,” Antonio A. Libres Jr., one of the former hostages, told The New York Times. “You can’t understand these people.”
Libres is one of the 26 sailors who survived the crew’s four-year captivity by Somali pirates, who seized their ship in the western Indian Ocean near the Seychelles on March 26, 2012.
The sailors were released after the pirates accepted an amount that would cover the costs of holding the captives, a pittance compared to the millions of dollars they initially hoped to get, according to reports.
Arnel Balbero, another Filipino sailor, told BBC they were only given a “small amount of water” every day and were forced to eat rat they caught and cooked in the forest near the village where they were held.
The sailors were held in Dabagala, a fishing hamlet that became base of operations for Somali pirates at the height of the piracy crisis.
“[We] just eat anything, anything. You feel hungry, you eat,” said Balbero, who said he and his companions were “like walking dead” during the duration of their captivity.
Balbero and Libres also witnessed their fellow sailors die from sickness because the pirates had no money to buy medicine for them.
Another of their companions was shot dead, while their captain was killed when the pirates boarded their ship in 2012.
Despite the anger he feels towards the pirates, Balbero said there was no point in holding a grudge as he and his companions have to adjust to living outside again.
“Even if I tell you all the bad words in the world, that is not enough for them,” he told New York Times.
“I don’t know what is… outside of this world when this finish, so it’s very hard to start again,” Balbero told BBC.
Piracy subsided in the region after shipping firms started hiring armed groups to protect their ships and international warships began patrolling Somalia’s coastlines. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News