On January 28, a catamaran that was ferrying 28 Chinese passengers and 3 crew members capsized in Kota Kinabalu whilst heading towards Pulau Mengalum, according to China Press.
Yang Yao Ru, 24, was one of the survivors and lives to tell the story of floating in the sea for a grueling 33 hours! Yes, a friggin’ 33 hours.
She remembered vividly that on the morning of January 28, the catamaran departed from Kota Kinabalu at around 9am.
But just one hour into the journey, the catamaran was hit by strong waves and water started leaking in. Within 3 minutes, the catamaran had submerged.
The passengers had no choice but to jumped into the sea.
“The water didn’t feel cold at the moment as we were wearing life jackets. A young crew in his 20’s tied up the only 5 life jackets so that everyone can hold on to the life jackets. We thought we’d be saved in no time,” Yang said.
They waited from 10am until sunset but nobody came to save them.
“We tried calling 911 and 999, but there was no phone signal there as the place was secluded. Soon, the sky started turning dark.”
And that was the night that Yang could never forget.
“The sky was full of stars and the air was exceptionally fresh. It would’ve been a perfect scenery if we were vacationing. But sadly, we were stranded in the middle of the ocean. Everybody thought the water is blue, but it wasn’t. It was black. And it became very cold at night. The waves were very violent and there were unknown fish biting our skin.”
“We suppressed our emotion as crying would exhaust our energy even faster. And the water would enter our mouth if we cried.”
She said all the survivors supported each other and braved through the night. Unfortunately, there was still no ship in sight the next morning.
“There were many seagulls flying over our heads. My mother told me that they (seagulls) were there to save us. But deep in our hearts, we knew the birds were looking for food on the water’s surface.”
24 hours into the incident, all the passengers were exhausted and started losing hope. Yang’s mother even told her her last words in case she didn’t make it.
“Due to the poor quality of the life jackets and long hours of submerging in the water, some life jackets started tearing off and the buoyancy aid inside came out.”
During the afternoon of the second day, some of the survivors became unconscious and slowly passed away due to severe dehydration and frequent consumption of sea water.
Yang will never forget the scene of a young mother and her 9-year-old daughter slowly giving up on life, and leaving the father behind. It will always be ingrained in Yang’s memory.
In order to stay alive, the survivors resorted to drinking the male survivor’s urine.
“My mother took a lipstick out from her bag and we used the cap of the lipstick to hold the urine. Each of us drank 3 drops. Someone asked us whether it was disgusting or not. At that moment, the urine was very precious.”
“Everybody knew full well that they couldn’t go through another night in the sea. If there’s still no help before sunset, we will not see another day.”
Instead of waiting for help, Yang and the young father who had just lost his family swam to find a boat.
Thankfully, in the evening, a cruise ship from a distance away coincidentally stopped to let the passengers enjoy the sunset.
The ship immediately cruised towards the 20 survivors after spotting Yang and the guy.
“After we got on the ship, all the survivors huddled up while the young father cried for a long time.”
After the incident, all the survivors created a group chat to keep in touch with one another. Yang is now back in China and continued on with her life.
As of current, 23 Chinese passengers were found – among which, 3 were deceased. Rescuers are still on a hunt for 5 missing passengers and 1 crew member.