British divers missing off Bali

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The Independent Online

Three British divers are missing after failing to return from a diving trip off Bali, the Foreign Office said today.

Kathleen Mitchinson, Charlotte Allin and James Manning, along with two other divers believed to be from France and Sweden, have now been missing for more than 24 hours.

The alarm was raised after the group failed to return following a dive off the remote Komodo National Park in Indonesia, yesterday.

The diving expedition was organised by the Reefseekers diving centre and led by British dive master Mrs Mitchinson, CNN reported.

It is thought six people wearing snorkelling equipment returned but the divers did not.

The waters off the isolated park are attractive to divers but the area boasts strong and unpredictable currents which can create challenging conditions.

Police and rescue teams were summoned after an initial search proved fruitless.

A Foreign Office spokesman said police and local authorities had been searching the area today.

The operation has now been called off for the evening but will resume again at first light, he added.

The next of kin of the missing divers have been informed.

A UK diving instructor who asked not to be named said: "The area is renowned for big fish, deep water and fast currents.

"Most of the diving there is drift diving - where you go down in one place, let yourself be taken along by a current and come back up somewhere else.

"The surface support - the boat they're on - follows them and normally when a drift dive goes wrong it's either because of dive error - they don't come back up when they're supposed to - or because the surface support hasn't worked."

Komodo National Park is situated more than 200 miles east for the nearest city, the Bali island capital of Denpasar.

The Reefseekers website boasts: "Reefseekers experienced Padi divemasters and instructors dive in these waters every day and know the dive sites, the currents and the marine life; their passion and knowledge of the area and critters will keep you amazed through the whole of your diving experience with us.

"Our Reef-teach briefings will only add to your enjoyment of Komodo and her marine animal and plant life."

A shortage of fuel for aircraft had hampered today's search and rescue operation, Mrs Mitchinson's husband Ernest Leandowski, told CNN.

He said: "We've got a big search operation happening here but we are having trouble getting aircraft to fly because of fuel problem."