ROUGH SEAS WREAK HAVOC IN THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

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By Pamela Joseph

KOLONIA, Pohnpei (November 26 - December 6, 1998 - The Island Tribune)---Due to unusually rough seas and strong winds this time of year, everyone is cautioned to exercise safety measures at sea after several people, during the past two weeks, were brought back to shore by search and rescue units.

In the early morning of Tuesday, November 10, 1998, a staff member of the Pohnpei Port Authority, Dilingken Norman, and Captain Mauricio Ofana were rescued, after their boat capsized in rough waters.

Captain Ofana boarded Norman's boat, after piloting the ship Kyowa Line out about one or one-and-a-half miles outside the reef. Shortly after they passed the main marker, the engine died, and during an effort to revive it, a huge breaker crashed overhead and overturned the boat. The men were in the ocean for about eight hours, before they were rescued by a joint State/National operation.

Another search and rescue incident took place on Saturday, November 14, 1998, when a Mwoakillese fisherman, Ruly Neth, was found nearly 22 miles southeast of Pohnpei.

According to Captain Patterson Lawrence, during his debriefing, Neth reported that around 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 11, 1998, he went out trolling without double-checking his engine. He was about two miles from Mwoakilloa, an outer island of Pohnpei, when the rope securing his engine snapped loose, and his engine sank. Because of the rough weather, his effort to row back to shore was useless. Fortunately, he had already caught eight yellowfin tuna, which he used for food during the 53 hours he drifted.

Dais Lorrin, Pohnpei State Chief of Fire and Disaster, said search and rescue efforts involved several units: the P3 of the U.S. Coast Guard; the FSS Micronesia, belonging to the FSM Government; the Micro Glory; and the Caroline Island Airlines (CIA) plane.

At approximately 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, 1998, the Micro Glory spotted Neth. A physician, Okai Johnson, was on board the ship and treated Neth for dehydration. Neth was flown back to Mwoakilloa on Wednesday, November 18, 1998. James Woodruff, Acting Pohnpei State Attorney General, who accompanied Neth to Mwoakilloa, said Neth is safe, and warns people to "carry supplies with them on boats, such as water, a flashlight, life jackets and a mirror," to be prepared, when incidents like this happen.

Earlier that week, on November 10, 1998, two brothers were found stranded on the reef near the Sokehs pass. Kandhi Elieiser, and his younger brother Neylon, were out trolling the day before, when their boat drifted away from them. According to Elieiser, around 4:00 p.m., they had anchored their boat on a reef near the Sokehs pass, to harvest oysters, when the anchor came loose and the boat started rapidly drifting away, because of the strong current. Unable to catch up with it, he watched helplessly as it drifted, towards the Black Coral area, he said. Twice, he saw a boat approach, which he believed spotted them, but did not stop to help. On the reef, they found a huge rock, which they climbed onto and spent the rest of the night. The next morning, he said, "We took a long and arduous walk towards the main pass, when we spotted the rescue boat." The boat held several family members who had organized their own rescue operation and picked them up around 11:00 a.m. Elieiser said that the National police and surveillance had initiated a search and rescue operation, but was it too late, as they were spotted first by family members.

The treachery of the weekend of Friday the 13th continued, when the Lapu Lapu, a 60-foot vessel, sank in Chuuk waters, 20 miles off Weno, the Chuuk Sunrise News reported. Twelve people were rescued, including a 12-year-old boy, and an elderly woman and her 71-year-old husband. No deaths resulted, as the FSS Independence retrieved the drifters on Saturday, November 14, 1998, at 4:00 p.m. They were floating for 16 hours, clinging to a wooden pallet.

For additional reports from The Island Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Island Tribune or http://www.islandtribune.com

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