THREE FROM KIRIBATI ADRIFT FOR 24 DAYS

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Survived without food or water

By Douglas Marau

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, January 5, 2009) - Three men from Kiribati who drifted without food and water for 24 days at sea arrived safely in Honiara yesterday after a fishing vessel rescued them.

They are Turii Akau, 47, Tentoa Auatabu, 62, and Pastor Kakai Berekeman 29.

Speaking through a translator, Pr Berekeman said on 5 December last year they were travelling back in a 15 horse-power boat from Nonousi Island back to their Island of Tapiteuea.

They were attending the funeral of Pr Berekeman’s father when the incident happened. The two Islands Nonousi and Tapiteuea are located about an hour by boat apart.

On their way back at about 3pm, they caught up with rough seas and that was when it all started.

"We were caught up in the middle of the disaster till nightfall and we could not do anything," Pr Berekeman said speaking in Kiribati language through his translator.

Pr Berekeman added that the sea was very rough all throughout the night until day break so they could not do anything.

When it was break of dawn, he said they were in the middle of nowhere; no Island, no nothing but only ocean. With their bit of fuel left they decided not to do anything but drift until they see any island.

However, he said that did not happen for the next 24 days. "Our food and water last us for only 5 days," he said.

He added that for the remaining days at sea they lived drinking their urine and salt-water.

"I told the other two that our only hope was God and if He decided that we die, we just have to trust him," he said.

With their families faraway, the only thing they did every day was pray and believed in God. On the 26th of December, Boxing Day, Mr Akau saw a fishing vessel.

He said they tried making signs for the ship for help but the ship ignored them.

With the little fuel left they used it to travel to the ship and that was when they were rescued.

"We thank God because without him we will already be dead," Pr Berekeman said.

Asked if they were married with kids, they said it was through their families’ prayers that also saved them. "Our families are already aware that we are safe," he said.

The three men arrived here about 3am in Honiara onboard ‘Zhong Tai 1’ a fishing vessel.

When Solomon Star visited them yesterday, they looked very tired with their bodies covered with sun burn.

However, they were in good spirit. They are due to return to Kiribati next week after all their visas are processed in Fiji.

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