KOTA KINABALU: The providence of flying fish landing in their boat was what sustained four people who were adrift in the South China Sea for nine days.
Drinking condensed seawater, Spaniards David Hernandez Gasulla and his partner Martha Miguel, resort owner Tommy Lam and employee Armella Ali Hassan managed to keep going until they were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel.
Martha told Spanish radio station COPE that the flying fish landed on their boat on the third night they had been adrift at sea.
The four were returning to Tommy’s resort at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau in Kudat from Pulau Balambangan at about 6pm on May 2 when their boat capsized two hours into their journey due to rough seas.
They, however, managed to flip the boat over and get in but were unable to restart the outboard motor.
Worse still, their radio and other communications equipment including handphones, became wet and unuseable. Their water and emergency rations were also lost.
As they drifted at sea, Martha recalled a movie about a castaway who managed to survive by distilling seawater into drinking water.
Using a cellphone screen and a plastic bag, they managed to do that and drink some water every hour.
The flying fish lasted for several days. On the sixth or seventh day, one of them remembered about clams that were stuck on the bottom of the boat and mussels encrusted on a piece of passing flotsam. For the next two to three days, they survived on the clams and mussels.
At one point their boat drifted to about 6km from Labuan with Lam noticing a prominent landmark at the island’s northern point.It was believed to be the historic 32.5m-high chimney at Tanjung Kubong.
Lam had wanted to swim to the island but was too weak.
Their boat continued to drift north and as they reached waters around Layang Layang they encountered calm seas where they were spotted by a Vietnamese trawler and were rescued.
The four were eventually picked up by a Malaysian Maritime vessel and taken to Layang Layang before being flown to Kota Kinabalu on Friday.
Since then, however, Lam and Armella have kept away from the media.
Lam’s wife Carrine Ng said they were busy getting things done such as buying new handphones.
“We are not interested in talking,” she said when contacted.
Armella’s father Ali Hassan appealed for time to spend with his daughter.
“Please let us have our time together first,” he said.
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