Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 13:30 UK

US crew's pirate 'hide-and-seek'

John describes what it was like being held captive on the Maersk Alabama

An American sailor from the Maersk Alabama has told of his terror while he and crewmates hid as gun-toting Somali pirates scoured the ship for them.

The man, who gave his name as John, said he did not move a muscle as the gang searched the vessel, firing guns and threatening to kill the captain.

The 19 crew members are in the Kenyan port of Mombasa, waiting to be reunited with their skipper.

He was rescued when US naval snipers shot the pirates holding him hostage.

The gang boarded the US-flagged vessel, which was carrying food aid, on Wednesday, hundreds of miles off Somalia's eastern coast.

Hiding places

Capt Richard Phillips told his crew to lock themselves away before surrendering himself to safeguard his men.

We could hear everything, we could them walking around, we could hear gunshots, them threatening to kill the captain
Maersk Alabama crewman

John told the BBC's Karen Allen that the crew shut down the ship's power before fanning out across the ship and hiding in different places.

"We were in our room, it was totally black, no power, everything was secure, no power, no ventilation, nothing," he said. "The temperature was so hot if you stood up, you'd pass out.

"I tried fanning, and when I stopped fanning I got so hot I almost passed out, and I ended up just laying on the deck without moving a muscle, and that way I was able to stay conscious.

"We could hear everything, we could hear them walking around, we could hear gunshots, them threatening to kill the captain. You'd be surprised how much sound travels on a ship with no power."

'Wipe them out'

John added that Capt Phillips - who is reported to be currently aboard a navy vessel at an undisclosed location - had "got the guts for all of us".

Capt Phillips after release
Capt Richard Phillips has been hailed as a hero

The crew celebrated their skipper's freedom with a barbecue on Monday evening in Mombasa.

Foreign navies have been patrolling the region in an effort to catch pirates but John said a joint force should "go after them and wipe them out on land".

Capt Phillips was held hostage in an enclosed lifeboat for five days by the pirates.

He was freed after US Navy Seals opened fire on the gang on Sunday night, killing three outright.

A fourth pirate, who was on board another US vessel trying to negotiate a ransom, is in US custody.

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