Some experts say story ‘fishy’
Sydney, Australia, January 22: Two men claiming to be Burmese fishermen have been rescued floating in a freezer, according to Ms. Tracey Jiggins of AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The two, Ko Ko Oo and Haung Htaik, are in their mid twenties and say they survived stormy seas, dehydration and hunger for 25 days by eating small pieces of raw fish regurgitated by two birds by and drinking rainwater. Their remarkable rescue took place in the Torres Strait last Sunday.
AMSA says that the two were spotted by a routine aircraft patrol off the Northern coast of Australia and a helicopter was sent to rescue them. Photographs taken by the aircraft show the two standing in a large icebox commonly used by fishermen.
They were taken to Thursday Island off Queensland for treatment and later released to immigration officials, who are now checking their identities. The Myanmar Embassy in Australia has refused to comment so far.
The two claim to be the crew of a Thai fishing boat that sank two days before last Christmas off the Australian coast. According to them, 18 other crew abandoned the 12 metre boat without lifejackets when it sank. No rescue efforts are being mounted by AMSA to find the missing sailors, as it is believed that they could not have survived for almost a month. AMSA officials say no distress message was received, though they admit that many fishing boats often stray into Australian waters in the Torres Strait, an area between Australia and Papua New Guinea infested by sharks.
Some survival experts have questioned the story, saying that the two men were in remarkably healthy condition considering they claimed to have survived by eating small fish regurgitated by two birds that landed on the icebox, and by drinking rainwater. Some weathermen have pointed out that a Category 1 storm Charlotte raged in those waters about a week ago, insisting that an icebox was not a survival craft. Royal Navy reserve commander Dr. Paul Luckin, a survival expert, has publicly expressed scepticism over the story. Others say that Charlotte was well south of the rescue location and that the story may well be true.
Either way, as Ms. Jiggins said, “Those are two lucky people. For them to have even been spotted in a huge body of water is amazing. They had no safety equipment, no beacons, no means of communication and they'd been drifting in a desk sized box for 25 days."