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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 27) – A man who swam for 12 hours in Fiji rough seas before being rescued by a group of fishermen is praying his two missing companions will be found.

David Narayan Reddy yesterday told of how he, his brother-in-law Ami Chand and Chand’s brother-in-law Sunil Dutt used floaters and empty drums to stay alive after their fishing boat sank.

The three left home on Tuesday last week to fish in Nukudaveta, in the coastal waters off Bua.

[PIR editor’s note: Bua is located on the west coast of Vanua Levu island in Fiji.]

He said while they were returning home early last Monday morning, he felt something hard hit the bottom of the boat.

"After a few minutes we saw water in the boat and knew that it was damaged badly, he said. "I told Ami and Sunil to pick some floaters and empty gallons and jump into the water so that we could swim to safety. The currents were very strong and we could not see any light but I kept encouraging the men to swim.

"Ami was near me but Sunil kept drifting away and twice I pulled him near us. I saw a light at a distance and told the men that they should not to lose hope and continue to swim because a boat was nearby. I kept calling out to Sunil and when he did not respond I looked for him. After a few minutes I had no choice but to concentrate on helping Ami who was getting tired. Ami then told me that he could not swim any more. After a while he told me to look for the boat while he rested. I was also tired but tried to reach the boat. It was moving away from us and I started swimming back to Ami but the currents kept pushing me back."

He said started calling out to Ami and did not get a response.

"Losing the two men was a big blow for me but I continued to swim. At daybreak I started heading towards shallow waters," he said.

He said he estimated that the main land was almost four hours away by boat and this discouraged him.

"But I was thinking about our families back home and continued to struggle, he said. It was about midnight on Tuesday when he saw light again and started swimming towards it. The fishermen rescued me and I told them about the Ami and Sunil," he said. "They advised me to see a doctor because I had injured my face and was very tired. By the time they gave me tea and something to eat my legs could not hold me any longer and I laid down to rest.

"At 4 a.m. on Wednesday they took me to Labasa [on the northern coast of Vanua Levu] and I was treated at Labasa hospital."

He said Mr. Dutt had been fishing with him for more than two years. It was the first time Mr. Chand had accompanied them. Mr. Reddy said he was praying that the men were safe somewhere.

Mr. Chands wife Shanti Devi said the two men were supposed to return on Wednesday afternoon. She said the news of their being lost at sea was hard to believe.

Mr. Dutts wife Arun Lata was lost for words.

Divisional Police Commander Northern Anand Narayan said a team of police officers, nearby villages and family members of the two men were helping with the search.

He said the search was being done in waters off Lekutu, Bua and Nabouwalu.

January 27, 2006

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