Three teenagers who have been missing in the South Pacific for 50 days – and were already remembered in a memorial service – have been found alive by a New Zealand fishing boat.
The boys – two 15-year-olds and a 14-year-old – disappeared while attempting to row between two islands in the New Zealand territory of Tokelau in early October and were given up for dead after an extensive search involving New Zealand’s air force.
Their craft had drifted 800 miles to a desolate part of the Pacific north-east of Fiji, when the crew of a tuna boat saw them frantically waving for help on Wednesday afternoon.
“All they could say was ‘thank you very much for stopping’,” Tai Fredricsen, first mate of the San Nikuna, said.
“In a physical sense, they look very physically depleted, but mentally … very high,” New Zealand’s National Radio said on Thursday.
The boys, Samuel Pelesa and Filo Filo, both 15, and Edward Nasau, 14, will be taken to a hospital in the Fiji capital of Suva on Friday.
Mr Fredricsen said they had begun to drink sea water because it hadn’t rained in the past few nights. He said the boys survived by catching fish and eating a seagull that landed on their boat. They were dehydrated, sunburned and very thin, but otherwise seemed okay. The tuna boat’s crew gave them small portions of fruit and fluids, Mr Fredricsen said.
The boys come from the atoll of Atafu, one of three that comprises the tiny Tokelau island group where 1,500 people live.
Tanu Filo, the father of one of the boys, said the news was broken by one of the teenagers’ grandmothers after she had a phone call from the fishing boat.
“It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle. The whole village, the whole village, they were so excited and cried and they sang songs and hugging each other, yeah, on the road. Everybody was yelling and shouting the good news,” he told Radio New Zealand International.