Life of Din ... or How I survived 9 days without food or water in a container accompanied by a dead co-worker

Reading about how 2 Bangladeshi men found in a container (one dead, one barely alive) at Singapore Pasir Panjang Port Terminal, the first book comes to my mind is "Life of Pi".

It's a story of survival. Of a sole survivor.

In this real life odyssey, the sole survivor after being trapped in a container after nine days (no thanks to smoking marijuana!) is Din Islam. His co-worker, Alamgir died after 7 days.

His is the only source of information of the ordeal. Nine days of surviving without water & food is just an incredible feat. Unlike in the book "Life of Pi", there was no animal involved, though.

Din Islam should consider writing a book about his experience. It will be very educational as a warning for workers not to smoke marijuana during working hours.

Two Bangladeshi port workers who slept off in a container at Chittagong port ended up in Singapore via Malaysia - having gone without food and water for nine days. One of them died, a media report said Friday.

Din Islam, 30, said he and co-worker Alamgir got trapped while resting in the container April 1. They had nothing but a pack of cigarettes between them.

Singapore police said Din Islam and the body of Alamgir were discovered last Sunday by workers at Pasir Panjong Container Terminal in Singapore after they heard loud banging in the container.

Authorities in Singapore are treating this as a genuine case.

Singapore police said they do not believe that foul play was involved. However, some people think the men could have got into the container with an intent to seek employment abroad.

Earlier, fortune-seekers took risky journeys from Cox's Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh to Malaysia, and many have died on the way, The Daily Star of Dhaka said.

The New Paper and the Straits Times of Singapore reported the incident.

The container was carried from Chittagong Port to Singapore by cargo ship Hansa Caledo, which sailed from Chittagong April 2.

The two men had completed their cleaning chores at Chittagong Port when they popped into the empty container to take a nap, Din Islam told Singapore police, reported The Straits Times Tuesday.

Din Islam said they shouted and banged on the walls of the container to attract attention before it was being shipped. But no help came.

"Then we just slept and we didn't know that the container had been picked up and transported onto the ship. By the time we woke up, we were probably already on the ship," Din told The New Paper.

He said his colleague, estimated to be 40 years old, collapsed and died after a few days in the container.

"I really didn't know what to do. I was very scared... I cried and I prayed to god for a miracle to happen. I prayed for my life," he added.

The Hansa Caledo made a five-day journey from Chittagong to Singapore.

After arrival in Singapore, the container was moved to the port's yard.

On Sunday, as the container was being moved to a trailer so it could be reloaded onto another ship bound for Vietnam, dock workers heard banging from inside.

When they opened the door, they found Din Islam with the decomposing corpse of his co-worker with no travel document.

Alamgir's corpse was taken to Singapore General Hospital, while police have handed over Din Islam to Transient Workers Count Too (TWC), a charity for migrants in Singapore.

He will be under TWC's care until he is fully fit to return home, said Bangladeshi A.K.M. Mohsin, who is the editor of Banglar Kantha, a Bangla newspaper published from Singapore.

"Details of the two men could not be known yet," Bangladesh High Commission First Secretary Zahid Hossain in Singapore told The Daily Star over the phone.

From NDTV, "Two shipped to Singapore, they fell asleep in container".

The two Bangladeshis, who were discovered in a cargo container shipped from Chittagong to Singapore, had smoked marijuana in the container before being locked in.

"For some time, we forgot that we were in a container," said port worker Din Islam, who was lucky to survive after being trapped in the container for nine days without food or water, but his colleague Alamgir died after seven days.

The container was on board a ship, Hansa Caledo, which left Chittagong Port on April 2.

After five days of journey the ship reached Singapore, and the container was left for another four days in Pasir Panjong Container Terminal, with Din Islam and the decomposing body of Alamgir inside.

Workers in that terminal discovered Din Islam and Alamgir's body on April 10, responding to Din's banging on the container wall when it was being reloaded onto a trailer for shipment to another Vietnam-bound ship.

Alamgir's body is now in Singapore General Hospital, while Din Islam, after treatment from Alexandra Hospital, is now under the care of Transient Workers Count Too, a charity for migrants in Singapore.

Din talked to The Daily Star over the phone with the help of local Bangladeshi journalist AKM Mohsin. Din hails from Biswa Colony of Kancha Bazar in Pahartali of Chittagong.

He and his friend Alamgir entered the container around 11:00pm with a pack of marijuana worth Tk 20 on April 1.

"We were smoking ganja, and could not remember where we were, but after sometime realised that the container we entered was locked," Din said.

None heard them when they shouted and hit the wall of the container with a small piece of rod after a few hours. They realised that they were on the ship, but could not understand that it was already sailing.

"When we realised that the ship was moving, we just prayed to Allah. We were yelling, but got tired," Din said, adding that they were able to breathe because some air was coming in through the cracks of the container's screw holes, but the air inside was dank and stale, and it was dark.

He said days of starvation emaciated them, and his friend breathed his last saying, "I'm gone,'' only two days before they were discovered by the terminal workers in Singapore.

"From then on, my suffering was acute. It was like fire inside the container. My breath was almost at the last," Din said adding, when he was in the Singapore port, he could hear people walking around. He banged on the container wall, but in vain.

"I was asking myself why Allah does not take me like my friend," he said.

Now he finds himself in a strange world, and he simply wants to return home, said AKM Mohsin.

The Singapore authorities, who were initially looking into possible charge of illegal entry, have not charged Din yet.

Din said he is now alright, but is worrying about his family. His wife Beauty left him and took their 18-month-old son with her to her parent's house at Mohammadpur in Laksam.

Some nights Din would not return home out of frustration, he said adding that he occasionally smokes marijuana but his friend Alamgir was a habitual smoker.

Din is illiterate and could not provide any mobile phone number of his relatives.

"I want to return home and meet my family," he pleaded.

Mohsin said Din has to go through some legal process in Singapore. First the authorities in Bangladesh have to identify his home address, then the Bangladesh high commission in Singapore has to issue a temporary passport for him. He will also need money for an air ticket. "It hasn't been decided yet who will manage the money," Mohsin said.

From the Daily Star, "Pot smoking was a factor".

FEW men, if any, have gone through the kind of hell he has suffered.

Trapped in a metal container without food and water for nine days.

Stuck with the decaying body of his dead friend for several of those days.

All the while not knowing where they were, where they were headed and when the door to the container would be opened.

And without any certainty of being saved.

Mr Din Islam, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi, has stared death in the face and come out of it alive.

He and his fellow countryman, whose name Mr Din gave as Mr Alamgir, who was about 40 years old, had not been smuggled into Singapore. Nor were they trying to enter the country illegally, he said.

"I didn't even know I was in Singapore," he told The New Paper in Bengali.

"We were not trying to come here to look for a job. It was just by chance that we went into the container and this happened."

Mr Din was found in a container with the decomposing body of Mr Alamgir at Pasir Panjang Terminal on Sunday night.

Yesterday, from his hospital bed, looking frail and thin, Mr Din spoke of his terrible ordeal for the first time.

Since he was trapped, he has not spoken to his wife, with whom he has a one-year-old child,

Mr Din, who works as a sweeper at the port at Chittagong - in south-eastern Bangladesh - had been working the night shift on April 1 with his colleague, now dead.

"We went for dinner and decided to go for a smoke. After that, we wanted to take a nap, so we just slipped into the container to sleep," he said.

They were in the middle of their 12-hour shift at that time.

Unaware

"Then we just slept and we didn't know that the container had been picked up and transported onto the ship. By the time we woke up, we were probably already on the ship," he said.

They tried to get out but the container, which was almost pitch-dark, was locked.

"So we looked around the container and shouted for help," he said.

But no help came.

"Nobody knew we were inside," he said.

The New Paper understands that the container left Chittagong on April 2 and arrived in Singapore four days later.

Except for a pack of cigarettes and the clothes on their back, they had nothing on them when they entered the container, Mr Din said.

There were no goods in the container. Nor was there anything they could live on.

"We had no food and water. We were very hungry and we had been shouting for help for two days," he said.

Fear, fatigue and the lack of nourishment took a heavy toll on them. Especially on Mr Din's friend.

Then the worst happened.

"He was weak and sick, and after what seemed like a few days, he suddenly collapsed and died," Mr Din said.

"I really didn't know what to do. I was very scared.

"I cried and I prayed to God for a miracle to happen. I prayed for my life."

His prayers were answered on the ninth day of his nightmare.

"When it felt like the container was being moved, I tried shouting for help again," recalled Mr Din.

"I managed to find a metal rod and a big magnet and I used them to hit the container walls."

Earlier media reports had described how a trailer driver had heard loud banging noises coming from the container when it was sitting on a berth at the terminal.

The driver was about to move the container onto a trailer so it could be reloaded onto a ship bound for Vietnam.

Alerted

Alarmed at the strange sounds, he alerted his employer and then called the police.

When the container was opened, the sight that greeted all who were present was an astonishing one.

In the container were a naked Mr Din, who had stripped off all his clothes due to the oppressive heat, and the slightly decomposing body of his dead colleague.

Mr Din was said to have been severely dehydrated.

Earlier reports described how the stench was so strong that port workers who were at the scene gave the container a wide berth.

Yesterday, a police spokesman said they received a call about the incident at about 8.30pm on Sunday.

"One man was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics at about 8.50pm," she said.

Mr Din, who was taken to Alexandra Hospital where he remains warded, is assisting police with investigations.

"Investigations indicate that both men are believed to be port workers from Bangladesh who were trapped inside the container by accident while they were taking a rest," added the spokesman.

Doctors told The New Paper that an average person can survive without food for as long as eight weeks but cannot do without water for too long.

An average person can go without water for between two and seven days. The length of time also depends on the individual's age, health, fitness level and the conditions he is found in.

For example, dehydration sets in faster and the person may have difficulty breathing in a place with higher temperature.

Severe dehydration means that the body does not have enough water to carry out its normal functions and this can cause kidney failure and even death.

But there have been previous accounts of miracles such as Mr Din's.

A 97-year-old Iranian grandmother spent eight days trapped - without a drop of water - under the rubble of an earthquake that levelled Bam in 1994 and lived to tell the tale.

"God kept me alive," she had said after being pulled out of the wreckage, reported Canadian news website, CTV News.

That, too, would likely have been Mr Din's exact thoughts.

From Asiaone, "'Nobody knew we were inside'".

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