Man stuck on collapsing kelong feared for his life

Man stuck on collapsing kelong feared for his life
SURVIVOR: Mr Martin Von Gnechten was on the kelong that collapsed.

SINGAPORE - Fishing enthusiast Martin Von Gnechten knew he was in trouble when the kelong he was on started swaying and breaking apart on Sunday night.

Strong winds were battering the kelong off Sibu Island, on the eastern coast of Malaysia, so angrily at 8pm that sections broke away like matchsticks, sending panicky workers plunging into the dark, choppy waters.

The only customer at the kelong, the Singapore permanent resident (PR) feared he would die when the lights went out.

All Mr Von Gnechten could do was hope that help would come as the kelong continued to be wrecked by the winds.

The New Paper reported on Tuesday that the kelong he was on, Ah You Kelong, collapsed because of a thunderstorm.

Mr Von Gnechten, 56, said: "I sensed something was wrong when the ground shook and the kelong swayed."

Mr Von Gnechten, who had checked in that morning, said he immediately grabbed his passport and made sure he had his wallet and mobile phone.

He then made his way to the front of the kelong with the 15 workers there.

He said that several minutes later, he heard loud cracking sounds from the back of the kelong as the poles supporting the structure began snapping.

Speaking to TNP on Tuesday, the day after he returned, the executive chef at Black Angus Steakhouse, said: "It sounded like matchsticks snapping, just that it was really loud, given the poles were huge."

The planks that made up the floor of the kelong were the next to start buckling and breaking, he said.

"My first thought was to help everyone on the kelong get to safety," he said.

"Five of them were employees of the kelong, and the other 10 were repairmen fixing the infrastructure.

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