Detained Vietnamese fishermen arrive home

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Nine Vietnamese fishermen released by the Chinese Fishing Patrol Force arrived home safely on Tuesday (October 26).

The crew pulled into the Dung Quat Port in the central province of Quang Ngai a month and a half after being detained while fishing off the coast of Vietnam's Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago.

Captain Mai Phung Luu of Quang Ngai's Ly Son District and his crew were captured by a Chinese patrol on September 11 while fishing in Vietnamese waters.

On October 11, China said that it had released the nine Vietnamese fishermen and their boat.

But concerns over their safety arose after they failed to arrive home the following day, as expected.

Luu said that after spending a month in Chinese custody, their captors confiscated their communications equipment and released them on October 11. The crew began their journey home and their engine broke down soon and they spent five days adrift at sea.

The Chinese confiscated their communications equipment and Luu said the crew was expecting the worst when a Chinese ship arrived and towed their boat to Tru Cau Island.

Due to bad weather from the typhoon Megi, it wasn't until October 25 that a Vietnamese rescue vessel arrived at the island to tow the boat back to Quang Ngai a day later.

Mai Chi Tam, Luu's son said they survived their ordeal by catching fish.

"We were really scared," Tam said. "We had to make a sail from a piece of canvas hoping the wind would carry us into the path of another boat so we would be rescued."

On Wednesday, Tam and his family members were having their boat repaired in Quang Ngai while other fishermen returned to their homes on Ly Son Island.

"We will head out to sea again to make our livings," he told Thanh Nien Weekly, adding that the seizure cost the family about VND150 million. The family said they'll have to take out loans to finance future fishing trips.

In related news, rescuers are searching for the crew of a squid fishing boat that disappeared off the coast of the north-central province of Thanh Hoa.

The nine fishermen lost communication with coastal authorities on October 16.

The boat belonging to Nguyen Van Hop began its offshore fishing journey on September 9 in a floatilla of boats from the Ngu Loc Commune in the province's Hau Loc District.

However, Hop's boat was not among the cluster of ships that arrived home early on October 16 to avoid a coming typhoon.

The local government and area fishermen assembled a search party consisting of fourteen ships to search for Hop and his crew but they failed to find any trace of the lost vessel.

Nguyen Van Ap, Chairman of the Hau Loc District People's Committee, the local government, said they've asked for support from the coast guard and other rescue agencies.

Hop's wife, Nguyen Thi Thuy, said the crew went to sea with enough fuel and food for one to two months. The boat was fully equipped with communications and positioning devices but lost touch with the mainland on October 16.

Nguyen Van Tam, a fishermen on another boat in the group, said he contacted Hop and they agreed to return home to avoid typhoon Megi. Tam lost communication with Hop a few minutes later.

Nguyen Van Ngu, chairman of Ngu Loc Commune People's Committee, said that a total of 130 fishermen have been lost in similar cases since 1996.

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