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Asia-Pacific
NZ boys survive 51 days adrift
Three teenagers from Tokelau survive nearly two months floating on a small boat, living on coconuts and a seagull
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2010 09:25 GMT

Three teenage boys who set adrift for more than 51 days in a small boat in the South Pacific, and who have been given up for dead, have been found alive. They survived their horrifying ordeal just on coconuts and a seagull.

The boys, from the island of Tokelau, a New Zealand territory, drank rain and then sea water, their rescuers said on Friday.

Etueni Nasau, 14, Samu Pelesa, 15, and Filo Filo, 15, drifted 1,300km across an empty, and little travelled, section of the Pacific Ocean.

They were plucked from the water as weather forecasters warned of a tropical cyclone bearing down on Fiji.

"It was a miracle we got to them," Tai Fredricsen, first mate on the fishing boat that rescued the boys, said.

"They are in incredibly good shape for the time they have been at sea. Somehow they caught a bird, I don't know how, but they caught it."

The trio had disappeared from Atafu atoll on October 6, and an extensive air and sea search had failed to find them.

Two weeks ago, the atoll's 500 inhabitants held a memorial service for the teenagers, believing they had died at sea.

But on Thursday, a New Zealand fishing boat, the San Nikanau, sailing near the French territory of Wallis and Futuna spotted the boys' floundering boat off its bow.

"Yesterday we saw a small vessel, a little speed boat on our bows, and we knew it was a little weird," Fredricsen said.

About a mile out, the boys started waving to the tuna ship.

"I pulled the vessel up as close as I could to them and asked them if they needed any help. They said 'very much so', they were ecstatic to see us," Fredricsen said. "They were very skinny, but physically in good health, compared to what they have been through."
 
The teenagers were transferred to the Fiji naval patrol boat Kula and arrived in the capital Suva on Friday where they were checked at the navy base before being taken to a hospital for a thorough examination.

"It's a miracle, it's a miracle," Tanu Filo, the father of one of the boys, told Radio New Zealand from Tokelau after learning the boys had been found.

"The whole village, the whole village, they were so excited and cried and they sang songs and hugging each other, yeah, on the road. Every people and everybody was yelling and shouting the good news."

Francis Kean, a Fijian navy commander, told reporters that the boys are very weak.

"It's still not the right time to have anything solid, their bodies are rejecting food, hence the need to pump them fluid. I thank God for giving these three teenagers another chance," he said.

The boys had some coconuts on board but no water when rescued. They said they had left their island home to travel to a nearby island. It is not known why the boys failed to reach the island.

The Tokelau Islands consist of three small atolls in the Pacific Ocean, about midway between New Zealand and Hawaii.

The boys were lucky to be spotted - the San Nikunau normally offloads its catch in American Samoa, but had opted to head towards New Zealand.

"We generally don't take this route and we were following the fastest line to New Zealand," said Fredricsen.

Source:
Agencies
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