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Sumatra survivors in Indian waters

Port Blair, Jan. 3: Four Indonesian survivors of the tsunami, who had drifted some 140 km from their homeland, have been rescued by the Indian Coast Guard.

'It seems to be a boat, and I can see somebody waving. Oh God! They are alive,' the pilot of a coast guard helicopter shouted excitedly into his mouthpiece.

The coast guard ship, Vivek, receiving the message, asked: 'Are all of them alive' Check and confirm.'

'Roger, Roger,' screamed the pilot, zooming towards the battered boat. 'They look famished, please send a boat immediately.'

Half an hour later, the four were taken aboard the ship, deployed to carry out rescue and search missions near Campbell Bay on the southernmost tip of India.

Scouring the sea for survivors in vain for nearly a week, the coast guard had its tryst with a miracle on Saturday afternoon.

'Save us. We haven't eaten or drunk any water for days,' said one of the Indonesians. 'We were out fishing when gigantic waves hit us, but we somehow held on.'

The man, in his thirties, was rescued along with three of his mates barely 140 km from the epicentre of the earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.

The four were 'brought to Port Blair this evening after travelling over 280 km (from Campbell Bay) and have been handed over to the police for a joint probe with the armed forces. We haven't been able to check their identities till now', a defence spokesman said.

'They have not been able to say how they got adrift. It seems they survived the initial tsunami waves and started looking for safer ground,' he said.

'But nothing is clear. They are so weary that we have not been able to hear their side of the story. We are just allowing them to eat and sleep for some time. We will get on with this routine task tomorrow,' the spokesman added.

At any other time, the Indonesians would have ended up in prison for drifting into Indian waters. Now, they should be on their way home.

'Yes, of course, we will do minimum investigation. It is only God's will that they have survived the tragedy,' said a police official.

Fortune also smiled on an Indonesian woman, who drifted for five days in the Indian Ocean after being swept out to sea from her home in Sumatra. She was rescued today by a Malaysian tuna ship.

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