Aussie tells of terror of pirate attack

David Nelson, inset, and a bullet hole in one of the ship's portholes.
David Nelson, inset, and a bullet hole in one of the ship's portholes. 

"Passengers were scared, some crying, others excited, annoyed and others in a state of shock that it had actually occurred."

In a first-hand account, Australian David Nelson has described for the first time the horror on board Italian cruise ship MSC Melody as it was attacked by Somali pirates on Saturday.

Despite some passengers' excitement that they were at the centre of a Somali pirate attack, Mr Nelson, 58, said it was "pure luck" no one was killed.

The attack was thwarted only after passengers started throwing deckchairs at the pirates and then an Israeli security team on board the Melody opened fire, the Gold Coast resident said.

The night-time raid started about 11.30pm when pirates attached a rope ladder to the ship, said Mr Nelson, who was on-board with his wife, Gaye.

"The pirates actually had ropes attached to the port stern side of the ship and were climbing," Mr Nelson said.

"Luckily passengers spotted them and started throwing chairs at them.

"There was at least one boat with six in it, they were [of] dark complexion and spoke with French accents. [But] most passengers who were present believe there were two boats involved.

"Shots were fired at our ship smashing windows and bullets [were] hitting the side of the ship around pool deck level."

A team of three Israeli security staff began firing back at the pirates, and they backed off, Mr Nelson said.

At least one passenger was injured after being hit in the back by flying glass, he said.

Some passengers were told over the ship's intercom at midnight that the ship was under attack, and to stay in cabins with the lights off.

But many were left in the dark about the incident for up to six hours, he said.

A Spanish warship was now escorting the Melody towards Genoa, and passengers had been told an Italian warship would join it, Mr Nelson said.

But passengers were fearful of further attacks and were unsatisfied with the information they were getting, he said. They had even organised a committee to air their grievances.

Passengers had been told in recent hours that the boat was in "a very dangerous area" and not to walk on the outside decks after dark, but crew would not tell passengers the ship's exact location "for security reasons", he said.

"Would we go on another cruise? Yes, but not in this area," Mr Nelson said.

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