Rescued after 2 weeks, survivor recounts ordeal

Associated Press

Klang, January 11

Tsunami survivor Ari Afrizal says he drifted on the Indian Ocean for two weeks, living on coconuts that he pried open with his teeth while floating on pieces of wood, then a broken boat, and finally a fishing raft. And all the time, he prayed. His prayers were answered when a container ship, Al Yamamah, spotted him on Sunday, and hauled him aboard and brought him to Malaysia late yesterday.

Ari, 21, was working on a construction site in Aceh on December 26 when the tsunami swept him and his friends out to sea. “The earthquake lasted about 15 minutes,” Ari told reporters yesterday after Al Yamamah docked at Port Klang near the capital Kuala Lumpur. “Then the waves came, big, big waves that slammed down hard on us.” Ari, who appeared fit despite the ordeal, said he and his co-workers were swept out to sea and clung onto passing pieces of wood. Before being taken to a hospital, Ari said he saw “many bodies” and debris floating around him. “I prayed and prayed. I told God I don’t want to die ... I was worried about my elderly parents and asked for a chance to take care of them,” he said. “As if my prayers were answered, a broken sampan (boat) floated toward me a few days later.” On the fifth day, he saw a huge fishing raft and swam out to it, thinking he would be rescued. But the raft was unmanned. He said many ships passed by without noticing him until the Al Yamamah came along. The ship’s captain, John Kennedy of New Zealand, said he did not expect to find any survivors. The crew sounded a whistle anyway.

“To our surprise, a frail-looking man emerged,” Kennedy said.