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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)

By Norma-Anne Hough


After a long shift in the engine room, Dave and his two co-workers were enjoying a cold beer in the ship’s pub. He was an engineer aboard the S.A. Morgentster and they were in Yokohama, Japan, offloading containers.

Suddenly they heard a commotion on the upper deck.

“Fire in the engine room.” The Captain’s voice shouted over the loud speakers.

“Abandon ship now.”

With sirens already screaming in the distance, the crew and officers began to leave the ship. Within seconds, the Firefighting Crew arrived, followed closely by the army. Helicopters arrived and began to circle the ship. The army was called to help the police cordon off the entrance to the harbor. Soon the local television crews arrived followed closely by the members of the press.

“How the heck did it begin?” the engineers asked each other.

“Who knows?” replied one.

“Obviously carelessness” suggested another.


I walked into my bedroom and looked at the calendar. Only four more days before the ship was due to set sail for South Africa. I was so glad. David had resigned as Engineer before the trip, but had to do this last trip. Soon we would be together, forever, no more separations!

Hearing the phone ring, I ran through to answer.

“Norma, have you had the radio on?” David’s dad asked.

“No.” I replied. “What is the matter?”

“We have just heard that there is a fire aboard the Morgenster, at this stage they are not giving out any other details.” He said.

I felt myself weaken, “NO, you’re wrong” I shouted at him.

“Calm down, getting yourself into a state will not help.”

Hearing the commotion my sister came running through, she took one look at my face and snatched the phone away.

“Hello, what’s the problem?” she asked.

Dave’s dad then explained they had heard on the news about the fire, and were waiting for confirmation from his friend at Safmarine Headquarters. He told her that Dave’s best friend, John, was already on his way to fetch me to take me to wait for further news with them.


The fire was extinguished after about two hours. After six hours, they were allowed back on board. They were told that the engine room had been destroyed. The only good news was that nobody had been hurt, as the engineers on duty had managed to get out in time.
The fire was big news in Yokohama and was all over the news.
Dave later spoke on the efficiency of all the disaster crews.


Finally, at about 11.30pm South African time, Dave’s dad received a call to say that nobody had been injured or killed. That was the only information they would give out.
Relieved that he was alive, I asked John to take me home. For his parents it had been a terrible time, as only eighteen months before, David’s younger brother, Andrew, had did in a horrific car accident. His mother still had not got over that tragedy.

The following day we received the news that it would take approximately four months to sort out the engine room. The ship had to go into dry dock.


While the ship was in dry dock, Dave and the rest of the engineers and crew were able to do quite a bit of sightseeing. Yokohama has one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world. Being able to walk through there was something quite amazing.
He was able to visit Sankeien Garden, a traditional Japanese Landscape Garden, which is world-renowned. Being a big port there was always activity around them. They were also able to do day trips to tourist attractions.
Dave found the Japanese people very organized, friendly and helpful. The places he visited were all kept immaculate, clean, no littering.
He also loved their local cuisine, visiting many sushi bars. Strangely enough, he never mentioned Geisha girls!


Four and a half months later, I flew to Durban to welcome him home. They were never able to determine the cause of the fire. The one theory offered was spontaneous combustion.

We were married eighteen months later.

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This article has been read 726 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Josiah Kane03/06/09
It is amazing how the word FIRE catches one's attention. This is the only title that caught my attention. The story was interesting, with it's hectic, anxiety packed pace. I'm not quite sure how well it fits with the topic, especially since ships are not considered part of the country in which they are berthed. At least the people got to tour Japan in the last but one section.
By the way, don't forget to read some of the other stories in Intermediates and leave feedback. Let's all help one another
Mildred Sheldon03/06/09
Interesting read. Fire does get ones attention. Loved the ending but then again I am a romantic. Good job.
Jana Kelley03/06/09
Stories from real life are my favorites. Good job!
Dena Wilson03/09/09
What a great read. I admit the title with the word FIRE in it drew me into this story also. I loved how easily the story flowed from one person to the next.
Connie Dixon03/09/09
It's refreshing when a news story ends up with a good ending. Keep up the good work!
Karlene Jacobsen03/09/09
Very good. I can't imagine the anxiety that comes to loved ones who wait to hear of the safety of their family member.
There were a couple minor spelling errors. You may already do this, but reading it aloud may help you catch those little typos.

Again, great story.
Ruth Ann Moore03/10/09
I'm a sucker for a happy ending. I can well imagine the panic that would have spread through the family as they waited anxiously, and the joy of good news and eventual reuniting.
Loren T. Lowery03/11/09
You definitely have a talent for chronicling events and creating suspense. For me, and this is only my opinion, I would have liked to have seen the story distilled down to only one or two events and characters. This would have given the author time to flesh out more of the story and the people involved (which the writer certainly displays an ability to do) while creating an emotional attachment to them.
Beth LaBuff 03/15/09
Wow, what a story! The wait to hear the news must have been so difficult! This is a story to tell for generations!