Hopes very slim for shipwreck survivors in Vietnam

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The father, wife and daughter of Ho Van Thang, who is believed to have been drowned with seven others in a shipwreck November 28. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

Two survivors from a shipwreck off the north central province of Nghe An have returned home, only to join funerals Saturday night for the other eight crew members.

Although Nghe An authorities labeled the others as missing and are still trying to look for the eight, the families have given up hope after hearing the survivors narrate how they were too weak to hold on to the styrofoam box that ten of them shared, Tuoi Tre reported Monday.

Several men in the crew were brothers.

Vu Van Ha and Ho Vinh Lai managed to keep it for 33 hours in the water until they were saved the night of November 29 by a fishing boat from the central province of Quang Ngai.

Ha told Tuoi Tre drama happened when one of the boat's four poles that hold the fishing nets broke. The boat lost balance, leaning to one side and was flooded.

"We were trying to scoop the water, but there's no time. The boat became full.

"We noticed the styrofoam box that we fished out of the sea two days ago, we took it and the two life suits on the boat. We just clinged on the box and took turn to wear the suits.

"If there were ten suits, the chance would be more than half of us survive."

Ha said they were in the water from 6 a.m. November 28 until being rescued at 3 p.m. the next day.

Lai's brother Ho Vinh The died in the accident and he kept mourning that could do nothing to stop The from drowning.

"It was freezing and everyone was shaking. Eight of us, including my brother, were fatigued and they let go."

The is survived by his wife Mai Thi Phuong and two children.

Phuong said the family has always been poor, and with both children going to school, The has decided that sailing near the shore wouldn't earn enough to make ends meet, and he joined the crew for going offshore.

She said The has gone on two voyages with the boat but the rough waters did not bring them good catches.

"He had said he believed this third trip would catch a lot for the family to celebrate Christmas," Phuong said.

Nguyen Thi Huong, a local woman of 56 years old, lost both sons to the shipwreck.

Huong said the boat was a new one bought by crew members together, from loan money.

Hoang Van Ha, deputy head of a local coast guard unit, said there's no hope that the other eight survived, based on the stories, but local forces would continue to search for their bodies, calling for help from units in nearby provinces.

Nghe An government agencies do not own a salvage boat and thus have rented one from a private company.

Ha said the boat's tip is still above water but it has been floating away from the accident site.

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