Viet Nam News
BÌNH ĐỊNH — In Bãi Xép, a small, peaceful village on the south-central coastal of Bình Định, a handful of fishermen have taken on the task of rescuing container ships foundering in heavy seas. The huge container vessels weigh thousands of times more than the small fishing boats.
Braving the elements, for 10 years, these fishermen with hearts of lions have saved nearly 50 crewmen on five vessels from raging seas.
Uncle Năm, a tanned 54-year-old whose real name is Nguyễn Hữu Kính, lives in zone 1 of Bãi Xép. He said that the nickname "rescue village" for Bãi Xép was too much. “It’s a normal response here. We try to save the crews or the ship as best as we can,” he said as he untangled small fish from a net he had dragged in.
Everyone in the village vividly recalls a typhoon that arrived at the end of 2009, partly because typhoons in the region rarely make it to land.
All able-bodied men in Bãi Xép village, including Uncle Năm, rushed to the shore to secure their flimsy boats. Only then did they see, hundreds of metres off the coast, a ship in difficulties flying a Japanese flag. With 30 years’ experience at sea, Uncle Năm could see the vessel was likely to capsize as strong waves and powerful gusts hit it from both sides.
“In this stormy weather, the ship is still out there. Let’s go see if they need help, looks like they don’t really have a way out,” Năm told two of his sons, Nguyễn Hữu Trọng, 28, Nguyễn Khắc Minh, 24, and a bunch of other men.
Even with years at sea, the men struggled to ride the waves through the rain slashed night to reach the ship. They found the Japanese crew in a state of desperation and wearing white head-bands, a ritual by Japanese sailors as they approach death. This startled the Vietnamese, who also wear white at funerals.
The rescue boat, battling against the storm, could barely stay afloat so any rescues had to be made quickly.
Năm made a sign to tell the Japanese to try to lower their anchor into his boat, hoping the Japanese could slide down on it into his fishing boat.
After 10 hours battling the waves to keep the link between the two rocking vessels, 12 Japanese crew members were finally delivered from their ill-fated ship.
Last year, the devastating typhoon Damrey made landfall near Quy Nhơn beach in early November.
Bãi Xép village braced for the typhoon by collecting all fishing nets and tools, and stacked stones to safeguard their houses. At 5am in the morning, amidst these chaotic preparations, Thái Công Toàn, spotted a struggling Mongolian freighter, Fei Yue 9, started to founder.
Foreseeing the sinking of the vessel, Bãi Xép villagers crowded together to go to the ship’s aid. Uncle Năm quickly gathered construction workers’ belts and rushed to the shore.
The Mongolian ship was pushed by the winds towards rugged rocks and the situation was hanging by a thread.
A total of 15 crew members, including nine Chinese, seemed to have given up entirely and were ready to jump into waves crashing onto rocks.
Phan Thị Báu, also known as Năm Báu, did not discourage her eager sons from going into the stormy seas, but armed them with raincoats, safety tools - and tells them to be extra careful with the ragged rocks.
Thanks to the courage of Bãi Xép villagers, 15 crew members were all saved, literally within an inch of their lives. Năm Báu and other women in the village called each other to bring blankets and tobacco to the shocked seamen.— VNS