CANBERRA (Australia) (AP)... Nine Indonesian fisherman are feared to have drowned, and 11 others were rescued, after six days of being without food or drinking water on a barren, deserted island, off the coast of northwest Australia, following a powerful tropical cyclone.
The path of Cyclone Ilsa caught two primitive wooden Indonesian boats, which were the first to be caught by the storm. On Friday, the storm became the strongest in eight years, crossing the Australian coast with wind gusts of an apparent record 289 km/h (180 mi/h).
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, citing survivors, said that one of the boats, Putri Jaya sank on April 11-12 in 'extreme conditions' as Ilsa gathered strength over the Indian Ocean while it was tracking southeast towards the coast.
The authority reported that the other boat, Express 1, with 10 men on board, ran aground in the early morning hours of April 12, near Bedwell Island. Bedwell Island is a sand outcrop located about 300 kilometers (200 mi) west of Broome, an Australian tourist town along the coast. The statement stated that the only survivor of the Putri Jaya had spent 30 hours in water before washing up on the same island.
The authority stated that "they all remained on Bedwell Island for six days, without food or water, before they were rescued Monday night."
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The Australian Border Force, who patrol Australia's northern approach for illegal activities and smuggling, spotted the survivors Monday from a plane that was on a routine monitoring mission. The rescue helicopter from Broome was called in and all 11 people were hoisted aboard as the light faded.
Gordon Watt, manager of helicopter provider PHI aviation, stated that the rescue helicopter crew was unable to land in the sand.
Watt, a journalist with Australian Broadcasting Corp, said that the crew had to use night vision goggles because it was nightfall when the rescue took place.
Authorities reported that the survivors are in good health. The survivors are expected to return to Indonesia shortly.
It is expected that the missing Indonesian fisherman will be the only fatalities of the cyclone Ilsa.
The weather bureau's equipment recorded a gust of 289 km/h (180 mph), on an island near the Pilbara coast. This was the highest speed ever recorded in Australia. The reading is preliminary and needs further analysis. However, the bureau announced Tuesday that it surpassed the previous record set by Cyclone Vance in 1999 on the Pilbara Coast of 267 km/h (166mph).