After an exhausting ordeal at sea that lasted more than two weeks, an Australian skipper and his New Zealander first mate finally reached mainland Vietnam Friday, AAP reported.
Mark Smith, 49, of Hobart, Australia and Steven Freeman, 30, of Nelson, New Zealand, left Ly Son Island on a Coast Guard cutter, waving farewell to hundreds of Vietnamese villagers who had gathered for their departure.
“People on the island rarely see a foreigner. For many of them, this is the first time they saw a foreigner with white skin and a big nose,” AAP quoted Truong Huu Nhan, an official at the island’s clinic, as saying.
Smith and Freeman did not immediately speak to reporters after arriving at the dock in Quang Ngai city.
They went into meetings with Vietnamese, Australian and New Zealand officials, who are expected to issue new passports for them and help them get flights back home.
The two men had survived 11 days adrift at sea in an inflatable lifeboat with no food or water after their boat sank shortly after they left Hong Kong on December 5.
Vietnamese fishermen found the two on December 17, and ferried them to a clinic on the remote island about 54 km offshore from Vietnam’s central Quang Ngai province.
The men were treated for dehydration and minor cuts and bruises, but appeared to be fully recovered from their experience.
Bad weather kept them marooned on the island for another six days until the East Sea calmed enough for a boat to reach them.