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Asia Dive News : Diver rescued after drifting nearly 40 km

SHIMODA, Shizuoka -- A man who went missing while diving for shellfish off the coast of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, was rescued a day later after drifting for nearly 40 kilometers in strong winds, coast guard officials said.

The diver, Haruhiko Hashimoto, 40, was exhausted when a passenger boat spotted him off the coast of Chiba Prefecture at about noon on Tuesday and rescued him, but he was conscious and appears to have avoided injury.

"At about 1 p.m. on Monday a strong southwest wind began blowing and I was swept away, but I thought I would be rescued if I floated without wasting my energy," he said.

Local coast guard officials said Hashimoto, who was wearing a wetsuit at the time, went skin diving for abalones and other seafood off the coast of Atami at about 10 a.m. on Monday, but he later disappeared, last being seen by a fisherman friend at about 11:30 a.m. that day.

Hashimoto drifted east to a location about 17 kilometers off the coast of Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, about 37 kilometers away, spending the night in the ocean.

At about noon Tuesday, a passenger boat passed near Hashimoto, and he attracted the attention of crew members by taking off his yellow flippers and waving them.

Officials from Tokai Kisen, the company that operates the passenger boat, said crew members had been keeping their eyes out for Hashimoto.

"We had received a coast guard report of a missing person in advance, and we were keeping a close watch," a company representative said.