UK & World News

  • 17 February 2014, 15:39

Missing Divers Cling To Bali Reef For Three Days

Five missing Japanese scuba divers have been found clinging to a coral reef in rough waters off the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

The women were among seven divers who went missing on Friday. There was no news of the other two missing women.

Fishermen found the divers 12 miles (20km) from where they set off but could not rescue them because the sea was too rough.

One of them was later rescued by a helicopter and taken to hospital.

The four others were  picked up by a rescue boat that took them to Semawang beach at Sanur in Denpasar, southern Bali.

"There were five found atop a large coral reef," said Rudi Tjandi, an official from the Bali disaster agency.

"The waves and current were quite strong, so the fishermen who spotted them couldn't approach."

He said they were found at Manta Point off the west coast of Nusa Penida island, just east of Bali.

They had set off on a dive expedition on Friday from the Mangrove area of Nusa Lembongan, an adjacent island.

A search involving about 100 people has been under way since the divers' disappearance, with rescue efforts hampered by heavy rain and strong winds earlier on Monday.

At Semawang beach four ambulances waited for the divers to arrive, along with several relatives of the women.

The mother of missing instructor Shoko Takahashi, 29, told reporters in Japan on Sunday: "I'm praying for her safety.

"She is an active person with a dependable personality. She never does foolhardy things."

Ms Takahashi and her husband set up the operator Yellow Scuba which took the divers out on the trip, said Japanese consular official Kenichi Takeyama.

The women were experienced scuba divers who had logged more than 50 dives each.

The dive boat's skipper said he was following the divers for some 20 minutes before a sudden downpour made the water cloudy, according to Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

He moved his 10-metre-long boat to a point some hundreds of metres away where the divers were expected to resurface at an agreed time, the report said.

When they failed to resurface, the skipper said he searched for them for an hour before reporting the incident.

John Chapman, a Briton who runs World Diving Lembongan on the island where the women went missing, said the heavy rain and choppy sea could have been a factor in their disappearance.

He said a sudden downpour would have made some safety procedures, such as meeting at a brightly marked buoy, difficult because of poor visibility.

The women with Ms Takahashi have been named as Ritsuko Miyata, 59, Emi Yamamoto, 33, Nahomi Tomita, 28, Aya Morizono, 27, Atsumi Yoshinobe, 29, and Saori Furukawa, 27.

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