After strong waves capsized their vessel off Vietnam’s central coast, nine fishermen drifted to an islet and were stuck there for five days.
From Binh Chau Commune in the central Quang Ngai Province, captain Nguyen Van No, 26, and 10 fishermen went fishing on the night of Nov. 1.
When their vessel was around 20 kilometers from Son Ca, an island of the Spratly Archipelago off central Khanh Hoa Province, it was hit by strong waves and turned over.
Nine of the fishermen clung to the sinking vessel and then drifted to a coral reef with a small sand islet in the middle. They decided to swim to that islet. They had no food with them but only around 1.5 liters of freshwater kept in two bottles.
“Two crew members could not make it. I still feel frightened thinking about it,” No said on Monday after he returned home safe and sound.
Captain Nguyen Van No in Quang Ngai Province, November 28, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh
He recalled that after getting on the islet, members of the group took turns looking for food but could not find anything but some tiny snails. They could not even build a fire as there were no materials for that and had to eat those snails alive.
Only when their throats grew too dry to the point they could not bear it, did each sip a little water from the two bottles.
“At night, the tide rose, leaving us a space of around 50 square centimeters and we lay close to one another to keep warm. Sometimes the waves splashed water all over us,” No said.
On their fourth day on the islet, there was heavy rain and the nine men tried to store as much rainwater as they could, using an extra bottle that had drifted along with them after the accident.
Then their savior arrived on the morning of Nov. 6.
Captain Nguyen Van Hoa, 34, who is also a resident in Binh Chau District, and his crew passed by the coral reef.
No and his group used the last strength they had left to stand up, scream for help and waved at Hoa’s crew.
Hoa sent a coracle over to bring the nine stranded fishermen back to his boat.
By the time they were saved, all of them had nearly passed out, Hoa said.
“We made congee and fed each of them because they were all too weak,” he said.
Hoa reported the situation to local authorities and set sail for Son Ca Island.
Captain Nguyen Van No (R) shakes hands with captain Nguyen Van Hoa in Quang Ngai Province, November 28, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh
He left the stranded fishermen with the navy force there and returned to the area where the accident had taken place to search for the two missing fishermen but to no avail.
The nine fishermen stayed on Son Ca Island for almost a month to recover their health.
On Nov. 27, the navy sent them back to shore.
No said his ship cost VND3 billion ($120,700) and had only been launched a few years ago.
“I will return to the sea and fish as soon as I can afford a new vessel.”
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