SINGAPORE- When the barge he was on capsized in Singapore waters on Thursday, he found himself trapped inside the overturned vessel.
Fortunately, Mr Wu Xei Xiang - one of the 11 crew members on the Bolivia-flagged fishing barge Heng Hong 168 - found himself in an air pocket.
Mr Wu, a 38-year-old Chinese national who boarded the barge in Malaysia, was trapped for almost four days, during which he made repeated attempts to swim out.
But he found the currents too strong and was not confident he could swim out far enough.
Mr Wu told The New Paper yesterday that without food and water and trapped in pitch darkness, all he could do was wait and pray to be rescued.
By Sunday morning, he was unable to bear the conditions any longer and decided to make a do-or-die break for it.
The gamble paid off. It turned out to be his miracle swim. Not only did he make it out of the barge, but he was also soon spotted in the water by rescuers.
"I thought I was going to die because I tried to swim out seven times but the currents were too strong," he said in Mandarin from his bed at the Busung Hospital in Bintan Island, where he was taken after being rescued.
Recalling his rescue by the Indonesian Coast Guard (KPLP) off the shores of Tanjung Uban, a town about 40 minutes' drive from the island's provincial capital of Tanjung Pinang, the bachelor said: "I made one last attempt (to swim out) and luckily I succeeded. I was lucky because there were people nearby to rescue me."
The barge had capsized about three nautical miles (5.6km) west of Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca and drifted into Indonesian waters. It was sighted 11km off Tanjung Uban on Sunday.
KPLP rescuers were towing the barge out of the shipping lines when they spotted Mr Wu floating in the water.
Six members of the all-Chinese crew were rescued by a Singapore Police Coast Guard patrol craft on Thursday. Four are still missing.