Vietnamese fishermen detained a month arrive home

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2010 6:08 AM

Nine Vietnamese fishermen returned home Tuesday after an ordeal at sea that included a month of detention by China and a week lost on stormy seas.

Several hundred family members, local residents and officials greeted the fishermen with cheers and flowers as they emerged from a maritime police ship at Dung Quat port in central Quang Ngai province, said local official Le Van Doi.

"They were given a hero's welcome," Doi said by telephone from Quang Ngai. "Many family members broke down into tears when they saw their loved ones."

The men had been the center of a diplomatic spat between the two Communist neighbors as several territorial disputes have raised tensions recently among multiple Asian nations.

China detained the fishermen Sept. 11 near the disputed Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Vietnam demanded their immediate release without conditions, but China refused until the captain paid a fine for having explosives aboard the boat, a charge Vietnam denied.

China released the sailors without conditions a month later, and the men left for home even though stormy weather and rough seas were forecast.

The captain was later quoted as saying the vessel broke down and the hungry, thirsty fishermen navigated their boat for several days with a sail made from blankets and mosquito nets. Chinese patrol boats rescued them and took them back to the disputed islands to wait for better weather.

Dozens of Vietnamese fishermen have been detained by China over the past year near the Paracels, which are claimed by both countries.