Vietnamese boat people: None of these people would be alive if, in 1978, a cargo ship hadn’t stopped to rescue 346 refugees

ESPMI Network

5400 Voyage to a new life: Dr Hung Nguyen (above, centre), one of the ‘boat people’ rescued by the MV Wellpark, with his family outside his medical centre in Orange County, California. Photograph: Barry J Holmes for the Observer

Chris McGreal tells a remarkable story

If it hadn’t been for his father, Craig Holmes might never have returned the graduation ring given to him 30 years earlier by a teenage girl he helped rescue from the South China Sea. Holmes was training to be a navigator on board a British ship hauling a cargo of millet to Taiwan in the autumn of 1978. Off the Vietnamese coast, the hulking steel vessel crossed paths with a small, crowded and leaking wooden fishing boat holding Luisa Van Nu and 345 other people fleeing the communist takeover of their country.

The refugees were into their fourth day at sea and hope for a new…

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