The four lucky felines who were rescued from a sinking ship by Thai sailors on Wednesday were dehydrated and spooked by their ordeal but otherwise doing well, the Thai Royal Navy said.
Their brush with danger began when the Phamonsin Nava 10, a local fishing vessel, caught fire and capsized in the Andaman Sea, a section of waters off the west coast of Thailand and Myanmar. The ship was about eight miles from Koh Adang, the nearest island.
The Phamonsin Nava’s eight human crew members abandoned ship and took their chances in the water until a nearby fishing vessel was able to scoop them up. It’s still not entirely clear why the crew left the cats, who were forced to huddle together on a perilous perch as the ship sank.
The cats would have been doomed if not for the timely arrival of a ship from the Thai Royal Navy’s Air and Coastal Defense Command, which was dispatched to assess the abandoned ship for a potential oil spill. Wichit Pukdeelon, one of the sailors on the Thai navy vessel, spotted motion on the sinking ship and used his camera’s zoom function to locate the frightened feline quartet.
With nowhere else to retreat, the terrified cats were huddled together on a wooden beam. One of the sailors, 23-year-old Thatsaphon Saii, swam to the wreck and rescued each of the cats separately by placing them on his shoulders for the swim back to his ship.
“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,” Sai told the Daily Mail. “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.”
Saii, Pukdeelon and the rest of their team are caring for the cats at their base on Koh Lipe, an island that together with Koh Adang and several others forms part of a maritime national park. Their heroics have made them celebrities in their country, with thousands of appreciative fans from Thailand sending them congratulatory messages online.