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Asia Dive News : Two Japanese divers rescued off Palau

Two Japanese divers survived the threat of dehydration, hypothermia, sunburn and sharks while drifting for more than 30 hours in the open waters of Palau earlier this week.

Hazime Telei, Palau's director of Public Safety, said dive master Masahiko Murakami, 23, and tourist Hirokomi Nakayama, 35, began their dive around 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

But upon surfacing, the men were not spotted by the boat operator, said Navot Bornovski, dive operator for the Ocean Hunter and owner of Fish 'n Fins dive shop in Palau. Bornovski was among those that helped with the extensive search.

"They were in the open space. The weather was not good. The waves were strong. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is a miracle that we found them," Telei said.

He did not know the name of the tour company and said the incident is being investigated.

Police were notified at 5:40 p.m. that the men were missing, he said. A search effort involving several vessels and aircraft lasted through the night and the next day, Telei said.

The men were dropped in the water to dive at Peleliu wall, which is roughly 27 miles south of Palau's capital city of Koror, said Bornovski.

The duo drifted 16 miles and was found 8 nautical miles south of Angauar, said Lee Putnam, a U.S. Coast Guard Guam search and rescue specialist.

The divers were wearing wet suits and had a camera and a flotation device, but no mirror or flashlight to signal search planes, he added.

Dive shop owners on Palau organized a search that included more than a dozen boats scouring the waters of Peleliu.

"With 6 to 7-foot swells, it is very difficult to spot people in the water because most of the time they are between wave crests," Bornovski stated.

The men were found spotted around 5:30 p.m. the following day by the Japanese research vessel, Keifu Maru, Bornovski said in an e-mail to the Pacific Daily News.

Telei said after the divers were hauled aboard the Keifu Maru, they were checked by a doctor and determined to be OK but very sunburned.

"They were a little dehydrated and cold a little. I think one of the factors that really saved them is that they never lost hope," Telei said.

Source: Guam PDN