YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI in BRISBANE
SEVEN New Irelanders adrift in the Pacific Ocean for more than two months were rescued last Sunday near Nauru, but two have since died, according to the captain of a vessel which picked them up.
A 17-year-old youth was washed overboard last Friday and was never seen again, according to reports made by the captain of the rescue ship – Ocean Encounter – an American fishing vessel.
A helicopter from the Ocean Encounter spotted a 22-foot boat drifting near Nauru in the waters north of the PNG maritime border last Sunday.
Seven men were onboard and told Ocean Encounter captain Ben Maughan they left Tabar Island in the New Ireland province, on Sept 14, to return home to Lihir Island, a distance of about 50km.
But they ran out of fuel during what was expected to be a daytime trip and drifted to the northeast, Maughan said in a report to a shipping agent in the Marshall Islands.
A report filed by French news agency, Agency French Presse (AFP) said last night that Ocean Encounter was expected to arrive in Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, last night to get medical treatment for the survivors, who Maughan described as suffering from “overexposure and aggressive signs of malnutrition”.
One of the rescued men died on board Ocean Encounter about five hours after the rescue on Sunday and yesterday, a second man died, according to Majuro-based Uliga Shipping Agency official Morton Enos.
An eighth passenger of the small boat, a 17-year-old, was washed overboard and lost at sea during a storm last Friday, Maughan reported the survivors as saying.
After being picked up, crew spoon-fed small amounts of water and a rice-and-water mix to the survivors because “their systems could only accept small amounts under their condition,” Maughan said in his report to the shipping agent.
It was not immediately known what the men had ate or drank during their two-month ordeal.
Maughan also reported that the survivors said they saw several fishing vessels during their two months at sea, but they “ignored their gestures (calling for) assistance”.