On an uninhabited island hundreds of kilometers off Australia's west coast, eleven Indonesian fishermen have survived six days without food or drinking water. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) announced on Wednesday that the men's boat had been hit by the violent cyclone Ilsa last week. The tropical storm later raged in the Pilbara region of Australia. A second fishing boat sank, the nine occupants were probably killed, the Australian broadcaster ABC quoted the Indonesian rescue services as saying.
A fisherman from the sunken boat clung to a canister in the sea for 30 hours and was eventually also driven to the atoll, rescuers said. The fact that the men survived on Bedwell Island - a tiny sand island - is thanks to a coincidence: On Monday, the crew of an Australian Border Force (ABF) aircraft discovered the stranded people during a routine inspection flight.
Finally, a helicopter was dispatched to the island from shore. The fact that the fishermen survived so long is remarkable, they must have been "unimaginably scared," said rescue expert Gordon Watt. For protection, the men had built a small camp from the wreckage of the boat. "An incredible survival story," ABC commented.
The rescued were examined in a hospital in Broome, Australia and in surprisingly good condition, it said. On her home island of Roti off the western tip of Timor, relatives and friends had been anxiously waiting for news for days. "I know these people very well," said one resident. "They all have small children waiting for them at home."
Bedwell Island is part of the Rowley Shoals, a group of three atoll-like coral reefs. The extremely remote area is largely untouched. Politically, the reefs belong to Australia.