A Thai navy sailor braved choppy waters to launch a dramatic rescue effort to save four cats stranded on a c that had caught fire.
It was only when the navy was sent to check the vessel, near the island of Koh Adang, for an oil spill after rescuing all eight of the crew yesterday, that they discovered the cats had been forgotten.
First-Class Petty Officer Wichit Pukdeelon of the navy’s air and coastal defence division said: ‘I used my camera to zoom in to the boat, and I saw one or two cats popping their heads out.’
Thatsaphon Saii, 23, from the Royal Thai Navy’s Air and Coastal Defence Command Operation Unit 491, in a life vest, swam 50ft out to the capsized boat, on which four ginger cats were huddled together clinging to a crane structure as the flames engulfed the boat.
The rescuer brought the cats to his boat on his shoulder above the water level, with his team pulling him in by rope.
Speaking about the rescue, Thatsaphon said: ‘When we arrived it was to secure the wreckage and check for oil spills. But we noticed the cats onboard.
‘I immediately took off my shirt and put on a life jacket so I could jump into the sea. The flames were at the back of the boat but it was starting to sink, so I knew I had to be quick.
‘I’m so relieved that we were able to save the kittens. They would have drowned or died of thirst if they went into the sea.’
The cats are now being cared for by their rescuers at their command post on the island of Koh Lipe.
Satun Governor Ekarat Lishen said: ‘The oil tank in the sunken ship is vulnerable to leaking, which will cause damage to coral reefs or collect on the sea surface.
‘We’re now working with related agencies to contact and coordinate with the ship owners to find a way to salvage the wreckage.’