Eight Indonesian fishermen feared dead, 11 others rescued after cyclone

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Eight Indonesian fishermen are feared to have drowned and another 11 have been rescued after spending six days without food or water on a barren island off the north-west Australian coast in the aftermath of a tropical cyclone.

Authorities said two wooden Indonesian fishing boats were caught in the path of Cyclone Ilsa, which on Friday became the most powerful storm in eight years to cross the Australian coast, with winds gusting at an apparent record of 180 miles per hour.

One of the boats, Putri Jaya, sank in “extreme weather conditions” on April 11 or 12 while Ilsa was gathering strength over the Indian Ocean as it tracked south-east toward the coast, Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement.

Beached boat
A fishing boat beached on Bedwell Island (Australian Maritime Safety Authority via AP)

The only known survivor from the Putri Jaya spent 30 hours in the water before washing ashore on the same island, the statement said.

The only known survivor from the Putri Jaya spent 30 hours in the water before washing ashore on the same island, the statement said.

“They all remained (on Bedwell Island) for six days without food and water before being rescued on Monday night,” the authority said.

The Putri Jaya survivor had tied himself to a fuel can to stay afloat at sea before swimming to the island, said Putu Sudayana, head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency in Kupang – the capital of East Nusa Tenggara province where the fishermen live in the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago.

The survivors were spotted on Monday by the Australian Border Force, which patrols Australia’s northern approaches for smuggling and other illegal activity, from a plane on a routine surveillance mission.

A Broome-based rescue helicopter was deployed and winched all 11 aboard in failing light.

Stranded fishermen
Eleven fishermen were lifted to safety (Australian Maritime Safety Authority via AP)

“They had to conduct winch recoveries which, in itself, is a challenging task,” Mr Watt told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“The time of day meant that nightfall was upon the crew during the rescue, so they had to transition to using night vision goggles.”

The survivors were taken to Broome Hospital where authorities reported them in good health. They are expected to be flown back to Indonesia soon.

The missing Indonesian fishermen are expected to be the only fatalities from Ilsa, which was a maximum Category 5 cyclone when it crossed the Pilbara region coast of Western Australia state south-west of Broome.

A gust of 180mph recorded on an island off the Pilbara coast was the fastest ever recorded by Australia’s weather bureau equipment in the country.

While the reading remains preliminary and requires further analysis, the bureau said on Tuesday it beats the previous record of 166mph set by Cyclone Vance on the Pilbara coast in 1999.

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