The nurses who returned to Kerala from Libya recalled their terrifying experience in the violence-ravaged country, with one saying "words cannot describe my pain".
As many as 44 Kerala nurses returned to Kochi Tuesday after being evacuated from Libya.
Tears rolled down their cheeks as they met their relatives.
"Words cannot describe the pain that I underwent there and I don't have words also to describe my happiness when I met my husband and daughter," Nancy Elizabeth, a nurse, told IANS.
Libya has been seeing a violent power struggle among rival groups after the fall of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Rival militias have been fighting around Tripoli international airport, attempting to take control of the airport.
Elizabeth said: "I was in Libya for almost one year. All of us paid around Rs 1.50 lakh as recruitment fees to go there. We were promised a salary ranging between 800 to 850 Libyan dinars."
"The hospital where I was working used to pay me an allowance of about 300 Libyan dinars once in two-three months. The rest of the salary was paid after nine months," said Elizabeth who is from Ernakulam district.
"I managed to get all my money, except last month's salary. The nurses working there are yet to get the gratuity and other benefits that come to around Rs 2 lakh," said Elizabeth, who plans to go to Delhi and find a job.
Chief minister Oommen Chandy and state minister for diaspora K.C. Joseph spoke to the nurses over phone as soon as they reached Kerala.
Another nurse who was part of the group that returned said: "The journey to the Tunisian border by bus was a nightmarish one. It took about five hours to reach there. All of us were praying as we could hear gun shots. At one point, we saw two people being killed."
Agreed a nurse who said though they were safe inside the hospital campus, the sounds of bombs and gun shots rattled them.
"Since the Tripoli airport has been destroyed, we never believed that we could return to our home. Special thanks to God, the Kerala chief minister and the central government. We will never forget the terrifying bus journey to the Tunisian border," she said.
Fighting between the rival groups in Libya has killed hundreds of people in recent weeks. Many Indians, who work in the Libyan capital Tripoli and Benghazi city, were also at risk.
A nurse said that "since we returned under emergency situation, we did not get our experience certificates".
"Some of us have not been given our last four month's salary. But we returned safely. Don't know what to do next, but I am happy."
Another 43 Kerala nurses are now at the Tunisian border but the date for their return has not yet been finalised, while 10 nurses would take a flight from there Tuesday evening.