The Michigan Daily-Friday, August 3, 1979-Page 13
Vietnamese refugee experience recounted
ABOARD THE SEASWEEP, South BUT THE momentum of two months three-day-old baby. Next to her, Huy It was 3:30 a.m. and the Seas%
China Sea (AP) - A typhoon was of planning and intricate deceptions Thi Nga, nine months pregnant, won- snapped to life. Lights. came on in
brewing off Vietnam. Vietnamese had passed the point of no return. Their dered whether her husband had clinic of the 1,500-ton converted c
authorities - reacting to an inter- 28-foot boat, piloted by a fisher who had remembered his do-it-yourself course vessle. Crew in foul weatherp
national conference on refugees - had never used a compass in the open sea, in midwifery. stacked lifejackets along the starbs
ordered fleeing boats fired upon crept out of the resort of Vung Tau un- THE PILOT, with only a crude, hand- side.
without warning. der cover of night, then headed for in- sketched map to guide him, lost his - THE SEASWEEP'S interpr
The timing couldn't have been worse ternational waters as fast as its 20- bearings on the third day and the boat shouted through a megaphone at
for Tan Giang and 45 others stealthily horsepower engine could take it. began to take in water. Giang's wife fstedashr"Kgh a m.e
making their way from a dozen points Typhoon Gordon, sweeping across collapsed after more than 70 hours first pass: "Keep calm. Wel
to a coastal rendezvous. Vo Huu Minh, a the South China Sea, struck them on the without sleep. Drinking water had been comrades in freedom. Cut yoursel
former U.S. government employee with second day. reduced to the filthy dregs in an oil from the buoy. We're going to a
a sick wife, thought to himself, "We Waves soaked the small cabin where drum and the food was virtually gone. around to get cinser."
have a 90 to 100 chance of failure." Giang's young wife huddled over her On the fourth day at sea a dot of red The engine on the Seasweep's be
light broke over the horizon and then which was to have dropped a rescue
mushroomed into an eerie glow. The 46 to the refugees, had given out. T
escapees thought for certain that they was no choice but to pull alongside
_ had spotted a lighthouse on the coast of risk pounding the small craft in
Malaysia. heavy swell. Ted Agon, chief of
The same red light was visible to the operation, made his way down ar
night watch aboard the Seasweep. After ladder.
nine days and 1,400 miles of criss- "Days-old baby," the refug
crossing the South China Sea in search shouted and a bundle wrapped i
of Vietnamese boat people, the green towel was passed from han
Seasweep - owned by the relief agency hand to Agon who mounted the lad
World Vision International - headed with Giang's boy. One by one, the of
-., . hildr ~ wap t intn l i~dr ha
toward the light. It came not from a
lighthouse but an oil rig 135 miles from
the nearest landfall, Malaysia.
"THIS IS Western Offshore Seven.
We've got a Vietnamese refugee boat
tied up to a buoy about 500 yards from
the platform," the oil rig crew radioed.
"It's got about one and a half feet of
cn ren were put intomunary Rags ana
carefully hoisted up.
NGA SANK INTO a stretcher and felt
a calm seeping into her body. Agon
strapped her down and as the sea rose,
he gave the signal to pull upwards.
Crewmembers on deck reached out to
secure the stretcher. Everyone
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VIETNAMESE REFUGEES hold a thanksgiving service after the Sea-
sweep, a ship operated by the American Relief Agency World Vision Inter-
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