A group of Indian tourists got the shock of their lives when the bus in which they were travelling in Europe was stolen from the centre of the Belgian capital.
The bizarre incident happened on Wednesday evening when the group of 29 Indian tourists including women and children went for dinner at an Indian restaurant in the famous Avenue Louise in the centre of Brussels.
When they came out after about an hour they found that the bus, which was parked nearby was not there. Some of the Indian tourists narrated their traumatic experience to INEP agency at the Indian embassy in Brussels.
The group from Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore flew out of Mumbai on October 15 on a tour of Europe arranged by a Mumbai-based travel agency Kesari.
Their first stop was in Rome, Italy, where they boarded a bus run by a German operator, which took them to Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands from where they arrived in Belgium on Wednesday morning.
Everything was going smooth and the Indian tourists were enjoying their tour of Europe when disaster struck in Brussels. All their belongings and money, and passports of 14 of them were in the bus when it was stolen.
The German driver of the bus immediately contacted the police to inquire if the vehicle was towed away for illegal parking (although it was parked in a parking lot) but he got a negative reply.
"This is a disastrous experience. We did not expect this in Europe," said one member of the group who gave his first name only as Rahul.
Others also expressed deep shock and anger. "We never thought this can happen in Europe. Perhaps it is the first time that a 56-seater bus has been stolen from the centre of the city," said one lady who did not want to give her name.
The Indian tourists reported the incident to the police who noted down the report and said they will look into the matter. They, however, were all praise for the support and help provided by the Indian embassy in Brussels as well as by their tour operator who gave each of them 100 euro in emergency help.
They were also happily surprised that the Indian and Pakistani shopkeepers either refused to accept money or sold them goods at a very minimal price after hearing of their painful ordeal.
The tourists said they have yet to decide whether to continue their tour of Paris and to London from where they are expected to fly back home.
Meanwhile, the secretary general of Europe India Chamber of Commerce and president of Global Organisation of People of Indian origin (GOPIO) in Belgium, Sunil Prasad, has advised Indian tourists to be alert and vigilant while visiting Brussels.
Prasad said: "We are shocked to hear this incident and we sympathise with the Indian tourists. However, I would like to state that this is not the first time that Indian tourists have been targeted.
"In the Gare Du Midi Railway Station in particular, Indian tourists in the past have become the victims of thefts of their belongings and on many occasions even police have refused to register theft complaint. This also reflects the deteriorating law and order situation in Brussels."