Authorities said that eight Indonesian fisherman may have drowned, and 11 others were rescued. They spent almost a week on an island without food or drinking water off the coast of the Australian in the aftermath of a powerful cyclone.
Two primitive wooden Indonesian fisherman boats were caught by Cyclone Ilsa. The storm, Australia’s strongest in eight years with winds gusting to an apparent 180-mile record, made landfall on Friday.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, citing survivors, said that one of the boats, Putri Jaya sank early on the morning of April 12, while Ilsa gathered strength in the Indian Ocean, heading towards the coast.
The authority reported that the other boat, Express 1, with 10 men on board, ran aground in the early morning hours of April 12, near Bedwell Island. Bedwell Island is a sand outcrop located about 200 miles west from the Australian tourist town of Broome. Officials said that the only survivor of the Putri Jaya, who spent 30 hours in water, washed ashore at the same island.
The authorities said that the 11 survivors were on the island for six days without food or water before they were rescued Monday night.
In a subsequent statement, the authority clarified that the Putri Jaya victim arrived on the island one day later than everyone else.
East Nusa Tenggara is a province located in eastern Indonesia.
The Australian Border Force, who patrol Australia’s northern approach for illegal activities and smuggling, spotted the survivors Monday from a plane that was on a routine monitoring mission. The rescue helicopter from Broome was called in and all 11 people were hoisted aboard as the light faded.
Gordon Watt, manager of helicopter provider PHI aviation, stated that the rescue helicopter crew was unable to land in the sand.
Watt explained that “they had to perform winch recovery which is in and of itself a difficult task.” The crew had to switch to night vision goggles because of the time.
Border Force reported that the survivors “were in good health, despite their ordeal” in a press release.
The statement stated that “this incident highlights the dangers associated with undertaking journeys on small boats not suited to rough seas or adverse weather conditions, which are both common in Australia’s north waters.”
A statement stated that the survivors were flown to Darwin in the north, where they would be returned to Indonesia.
In a press release, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the consulate of Indonesia in Darwin had requested to meet with fishermen and offer them assistance. In a statement, Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the consulate would help facilitate their return, and thanked Australian agencies for helping.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which oversees search and rescue operations in Australian waters, has confirmed that there is no further search for survivors.
It is expected that the missing Indonesian fisherman will be the only fatalities of the cyclone Ilsa.