Eight fishermen have been rescued off southern Vietnam on Friday after surviving three days adrift at sea during which they even had to eat polystyrene pieces to battle hunger.
However, two other fishermen died in the ordeal, whose bodies haven’t been found yet, authorities said.
The surviving fishermen were found by a fishing boat 22 sea miles southwest of Hon Khoai Isle on Friday afternoon.
They were later transferred to a vessel of Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center (VIetnam MRCC), which took them to Nam Can Hospital, Ca Mau Province, on Saturday morning.
Captain Phan Van Xuyen said the boat was hit by strong wind and rough sea in the afternoon of December 16, less than 20 sea miles from Nha Mat seaport in Bac Lieu Province.
“We wanted to return to the port, but it was too late, and our boat sunk moments later,” Xuyen said.
The crew used rope to join two large pieces of polystyrene foam sheet and hang onto it. For the next three days, “we were cold, starving, and without drinking water,” Xuyen said.
“We had to eat drifting mangrove fruits, and when we had nothing else we ate foam pieces to survive,” he said.
On Friday noon, one of them, Nguyen Van Han, became too weak to hang onto the rope, and was washed away.
"We saw him washed away, but we were so exhausted that we couldn't move and save him," said Phan Van Nam, the boat owner who was among the crew. "We could only look and cry."
Later in the afternoon, another fisherman, 19-year-old Thach Lot, died from exhaustion. Xuyen said they tied Lot’s hands to the rope to keep his body.
When all hope was almost gone, the survivors saw a fishing boat.
Xuyen said he climbed onto the foam sheets and waved his shirt at the boat, which finally spotted them and came to the rescue.
However, the owner of the other boat was superstitious and refused to carry Thach Lot's body.
Xuyen said he had to tie Lot's body, as well as a marking flag, to the polystyrene sheet, hoping another rescue ship may find him.
A Vietnam MRCC vessel later returned to the area but could not find the body.
Xuyen said he and the other survivors felt "guilty."
"We all want to sail back there to find his body."
Doctors said the survivors are in stable condition.
On Saturday, another Vietnam MRCC vessel saved 10 fishermen who fell from a sinking ship off Vung Tau beach town the previous night.
Also on the same day, coast guards in the central province of Quang Tri on Saturday morning reached and rescued six men from their sinking coal vessel.