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Oil worker detained at gunpoint

PUBLISHED: 16:33 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:40 03 July 2010

DETAINED: Chris Wood

DETAINED: Chris Wood

Laura Bagshaw

A GREAT Yarmouth father-of-two is among 11 oil workers being detained in Africa after the ship they were working on was seized at gunpoint.

Chris Wood, of St George's Road, is being held in a hotel on the West African island of Bioko after the vessel he was working on apparently strayed into Equitorial Guinea waters.

A GREAT Yarmouth father-of-two is among 11 oil workers being detained in Africa after the ship they were working on was seized at gunpoint.

Chris Wood, of St George's Road, is being held in a hotel on the West African island of Bioko after the vessel he was working on apparently strayed into Equitorial Guinea waters.

The drama unfolded almost three weeks ago when the crew, seven of them Britons, were testing survey equipment on their vessel the MV Askalad.

It was en route to Cameroon when it strayed into Equitorial Guinea waters and was seized by a gunboat.

The crew, including a Belgian, South African, three Nigerians and three Ukrainians, were taken to the Tropicana Hotel in Malabo, the island's capital where they have been held for almost three weeks.

Mr Wood, 44, had been working in Africa since February 19 as a freelance surveyor for Wiltshire-based Gems UK and negotiations between the company and the Equatorial Guinea government are continuing. The workers have also been visited by the honorary consul resident of Malabo David Shaw and members of the British Embassy in Nigeria.

This week his wife of 18 years Belinda, 41, daughter of local councillors Mike and Brenda Taylor, said while her husband was not in danger she was becoming increasingly concerned for his welfare as the days rolled on.

She said: “I have not been particularly worried because he tells me he is being well cared for but as time goes on I am getting more concerned. It feels like it has been going on for longer than three weeks,” added the teaching assistant.

Mr Wood sent a text message to his wife, telling her what had happened.

She said: “Luckily Chris had taken his laptop with him so I do have daily contact with him through emails. I have spoken to him a few times and he said the worst part was being approached by the gunboat. He said it was quite scary.

“He is being well cared for and there is no issue of him being in danger but it's a very basic hotel and they are not allowed outside the hotel grounds. I think he is finding it more difficult the longer it goes on.”

Mr Wood, originally from Bury, has worked as a surveyor since 1987 including a seven-year stint with Yarmouth-based Gardline.

He has been a freelance surveyor for more than 10 years working abroad in Africa and Abu Dhabi.

The couple have two daughters Anna, 14 and Laura, 17.

Mr Wood is due home in two weeks and Mrs Wood said she remained hopeful her husband's ordeal would soon be over.

“I just wish they could get it over and done with so he can come home,” she said.

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