MANILA, Philippines - The all-Filipino crew of a cargo vessel cheated death during the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on Tuesday.
Twenty Filipino seamen led by Captain John Francis Rubio said they were left traumatized by the quake that shook their ship while unloading cargo at Port Mejillones.
Rubio, skipper of the 18,000-tonnage bulk carrier MV Fortune Bay, said his crew was still shook up and almost sleepless for the past two days because of the frequent tsunami alert warnings by Chilean authorities.
Rubio said they had just unloaded corn and wheat at Port Mejillones and were loading zinc and lead concentrates for delivery to Japan and Korea when the earthquake struck.
Two vessels were in port while others were anchored off pier waiting for their turn to unload cargo.
Rubio was talking to his wife Shirley on Skype when their vessel shook violently.
The skipper rushed outside to check and learned from his radio operator of the ongoing earthquake.
The radioman also relayed the order of the port control tower for them to leave for the high seas amid tsunami warnings.
Rubio ordered the vessel’s anchor raised while at the same time cut loose some 14 ropes tying the MV Fortune Bay to port.
The vessel was rushing out of port when the first tsunami struck.
MV Fortune Bay made it out in a record seven seconds with neither tugboat nor harbor pilot.
But because it was in a hurry to leave, the vessel left behind its 3rd assistant engineer, Joseph de Leon, who had gone sightseeing outside the port.
“The railings of the MV Fortune Bay were destroyed. But the Japanese owners of the vessel gave assurance that it would be fixed as soon as possible,” Shirley told The STAR.
As relayed by Rubio to his wife, the vessel’s all-Filipino crew were in total shock and were praying for their safety.
They stayed in the high seas until port control informed them that they could come back and resume loading cargo.
Rubio also received an email from De Leon saying he’s safe and sound.
According to De Leon, he was on his way back to port when Chile authorities prevented him from returning and instead brought him to an evacuation center on higher ground where he spent the night.
The ship’s agent escorted De Leon back to the vessel the following day.