Four Indonesian nationals escaped from the jaws of death yesterday by holding on to a floating log off the Muara Beach after being swept into the ocean by a rogue wave.
The four men were picnicking at the beach, enjoying the public holiday when the incident happened.
Sukardi and Nawawi were swimming in chest-deep water when a freak wave swept them about a kilometre into the sea.
It's the last sentence that caught my attention. But a freaque wave swept them out into sea?
Their friends Sunardi and Marwan, who were on the beach, saw their friends in the water waving for help and jumped in to try and rescue them.
"The waves seemed to be normal but I felt myself being pulled in towards the ocean. No matter how much I tried to swim to the shore, I was pulled further away from the shore," said Nawawi, still trembling, when he spoke to the Bulletin about the ordeal.
Sunardi and Marwan reached their friends who were on the verge of drowning but were unable to keep themselves afloat due to the strong currents.
Based on the fact that they were being pulled in towards the ocean in spite of valiant efforts to swim to the shore, it is more likely that they had really encountered rip currents rather than a freaque wave. Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. Abundent informations on rip currents are readily available, good informations can be found from NOAA National Weather Service here, here, and here. This following picture depicts the happening of a rip current:
Basically a rule of thumb is whenever you feel being pulled toward the ocean, quickly swim parallel to shore to get out of that area first -- do NOT ever trying to swim to shore when you know that you got caught in a rip current!
Well, this story has a happy ending:
A Filipino man who had also gone in to assist the four men in distress saw a log floating nearby and pushed it towards them.
The four men held on to the log for dear life and only the Filipino national was able to swim back all the way to the beach.
"I do not know where the log came from but I grabbed it as soon as I saw it and led my other friends to hang on to it. If it was not for the log, we would certainly have exhausted ourselves just trying to keep afloat," said Marwan.
A Bruneian man, who saw the four men waving for help, quickly called the police. Two Marine Police, who were patrolling on their boat at the time, rescued the four men approximately half a kilometre from shore and rushed them to the Marine Police Headquarters in Muara.
During the incident, the men were in the water for over an hour until they were rescued by the Marine Police personnel but escaped without any injuries.
The article in the Brunei news was entitled "Lucky escape for four Indonesians" which certainly described accurately what had happened. Four lucky Indonesian young men indeed, thanks be to God!