SA couple glad to be alive, and will continue holiday

2012-01-17 00:00

THEIR Facebook photos said it all. Mike and Narien van Dijk from Pretoria enjoy travelling and a capsized cruise liner was not about to end their fun.

Yesterday, as they were being processed for their emergency passports at South Africa’s embassy in Rome, Mike van Dijk told The Witness: “We’re going to find a nice place in Rome and just relax. We’re grateful that we’re alive …”

The couple were among at least eight South Africans who survived the capsizing of the luxury liner the Costa Concordia off the Tuscan coast on Friday night.

But there was a moment on that fateful night when pandemonium broke out as the ship hit a rock, that the couple didn’t know whether they would survive.

“As we got onto the lifeboat, we started praying and we actually said goodbye to each other, because we thought this was the end.”

However, Van Dijk played down their own experience, saying it was “mild” compared to what other passengers had to go through. Mothers had to hand over their babies to strangers and other people had to swim to shore.

Van Dijk even joked that they had the “basics”, such as deodorant which they received on Sunday, but “my wife needs make-up, you know”.

However, he was less sanguine about the cruise company’s leadership.

“We haven’t heard anything from them. Not even an apology.”

He thanked the people of the island of Giglio who gave survivors clothing, as well as the police and lifesavers. The couple plan to return home at the end of the month.

Van Dijk was speaking from the South African embassy in Rome, where he, his wife and Pietermaritzburg couple Faizal and Nafeesa Agjee, and their two children, Zahra and Zaheer, were meeting embassy officials and ensuring the paperwork could be completed for their emergency passports.

The six were among the eight South Africans who were caught up the ship drama.

SA ambassador to Italy, Thenjiwe Mtintso, said the other identified South Africans, Laurence and Andy Davis, were contacted by embassy officials, but did not need help as they were being helped by the embassy of Canada, where they emigrated in 1997.

Mtintso said embassy officials were in constant communication with the cruise company and were still not certain that the eight South Africans identified so far were the only South Africans on board.

The ambassador said officials were working tirelessly to ensure that the Agjees and Van Dijks were well taken care of.

“We’re interacting with the people of the cruise liner to see what they are offering in terms of clothing, airplane tickets and extended trip arrangements.”

The embassy was facilitating communication with loved ones and processing passports.

Mthintso said she was “a little upset” at the cruise company for the initial misinformation that there were no South Africans on board and that embassy staff had to hear about it from the media.

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