A hero navy sailor rescued four kittens from a burning ship off the coast of Thailand.
Seaman Thatsaphon Saii, 23, received the emergency call and plunged into the water still wearing his trousers to swim over to the wreckage in Satun on Tuesday.
All eight crew members – five Burmese and three Thai – had already escaped the inferno and been picked up by a passing fishing boat.
However, four terrified kittens were left behind. They moved to the bow and were left clinging to a crane structure as the flames rapidly engulfed the boat.
Heroic Thatsaphon swam 50ft in choppy seas before he climbed aboard the sinking ship and put three cats into an old rice sack and carried one on his shoulder.
The sailor emerged with the trembling moggies and paddled with them in his arms back to the navy vessel where they were unharmed.
The boat, an old wooden fishing vessel, was left to burn and sink into the depths near the island of Koh Adang.
Speaking today, hero navy sailor Thatsaphon, from the Royal Thai Navy’s Air and Coastal Defence Command Operation Unit 491, said: ‘When we arrived it was to secure the wreckage and check for oil spills. But we noticed the cats onboard.
‘I immediately took off my shirt and put on a life jacket so I could jump into the sea. The flames were at the back of the boat but it was starting to sink, so I knew I had to be quick.
‘I’m so relieved that we were able to save the kittens. They would have drowned or died of thirst if they went into the sea.’
The kittens were dehydrated and given fresh water while they recovered onboard the navy vessel. They had no other injuries.
Navy officials are currently looking after them at their office while they prepare for them to be re-homed.
Satun Governor Ekarat Lishen said: ‘The oil tank in the sunken ship is vulnerable to leaking, which will cause damage to coral reefs or collect on the sea surface.
‘We’re now working with related agencies to contact and coordinate with the ship owners to find a way to salvage the wreckage.’