Two men were found floating in an ice box in the seas off Australia and told authorities they had spent 25 days adrift after their fishing boat sank with the loss of 18 other crew members, an official said today.
The men, 22 and 24, from the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, were rescued from the Torres Strait by a helicopter on Saturday and flown to a hospital on Thursday Island off the coast of Queensland state, Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman Tracey Jiggins said.
Both men stood in the pink ice box which has waist-high sides and waved when they were spotted by a customs border protection patrol flight.
The men told police they had been aboard a 30-foot (9-meter) wooden fishing boat that sank Dec. 23 with a total of 20 crew from Thailand and Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.
Jiggins said the men found refuge inside a large insulated box that held ice on the boat. "At the time of the sinking, the two survivors also witnessed other crew in the water with no flotation devices," she said.
She did not know what the men ate or drank during their ordeal.
One of the rescuers, pilot Terry Gadenne, told Seven Network television that each man drank about four pints of water within seconds of being hoisted aboard the helicopter.
An official at the hospital, Dr. Oscar Whitehead, said the men were in good condition and would be discharged into the care of immigration authorities later Tuesday. He said their greatest medical problem had been dehydration.
Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan said the men would likely be kept in a motel at Thursday Island under the department's supervision while officials attempted to prove their identities. Neither man had identity documents.
Logan did not know how long the men were likely to be kept in Australia.
The Myanmar embassy in Canberra had not contacted the men and did not intend to make any public statement, an embassy official said.
Officials did not know why the fishing boat sank, Jiggins said, but the two men said the vessel had been taking on water for some time before it went down.
The survivors were not able to provide accurate details of where the boat sank, Jiggins said. She said Australian authorities did not plan to search for other survivors.
"We've made an assessment ... that the remaining crew members would not be able to survive 25 days in the water without any form of flotation device," Jiggins said.Reuse content