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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'There Was No Time to Think, I Just Ran, Ran'

People plucked from the icy waters of the Baltic on Wednesday spoke of disbelief, sorrow and a burning desire to survive when the ferry Estonia sank with over 900 people on board.

"There was no time to think. I just ran, ran, ran," said deck hand Silver Linde. "I just don't understand it. It was a very good ship, a beautiful liner," he said in Turku, Finland, where he was taken as one of the 126 survivors.

"Many people didn't wake up in time," said Einar Kukk, 32, a second mate who was on board the ship for training. "Some were drinking and partying and were not in the best condition to cope."

The survivors, many of them Estonian crew, talked on the telephone to relatives or discussed in hushed voices the terrible ordeal of spending up to six hours in water only just above freezing. They said they had been treated for hypothermia and water in the lungs.

In Stockholm, Swedish helicopter rescue pilots recalled the pitch blackness, towering waves and empty lifeboats at the site of Wednesday's ferry disaster.

"We saw about 40 life rafts," said pilot Stefan Carneros. "Unfortunately most of them were empty."

Carneros' crew searched for survivors amid waves that reached six meters. The water temperature at the time was 12 degrees Celsius. The task was extremely difficult in the stormy weather.

Viljho Itaranta, a passenger in his 50s from Borlangem, Sweden, had just gone to bed when the ship heeled over. He leapt overboard with a friend.

"The last we saw of the Estonia," said Kalk, "was the bottom of her hull sliding swiftly beneath the waves."