|Published:||Nov 26, 2010 6:48 PM EST|
|Updated:||Nov 26, 2010 3:51 PM EST|
SUVA, Fiji (AP) - Three teenage boys who spent 50 days adrift in a tiny boat in the South Pacific walked ashore on shaky legs Friday after their chance rescue - celebrated on their home island hundreds of miles (kilometers) away as a miracle that brought them back from the dead.
The trio - Samuel Pelesa and Filo Filo, both 15, and Edward Nasau, 14 - told rescuers they survived on rainwater they collected, a handful of coconuts, raw fish and a seagull that landed on their 12-foot- (3.5-meter-) long aluminum boat.
The boys set off Oct. 5 from their home island to one nearby. It's not known how they went missing, but the outboard motor may have broken down at sea.
Worried family members reported them missing and the New Zealand air force launched a sea search. No sign of the tiny boat was found, and the village of 500 people held memorial services, expecting never to see the boys again.
They were picked up Wednesday by a fishing trawler, undernourished, severely dehydrated and badly sunburned, but otherwise well. The ship's first mate said the area they were in is way off any normal commercial shipping routes.
They drifted 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from where they set out - Tokelau, a bucolic collection of coral atolls north of Samoa that is New Zealand's territory.
A Fiji navy patrol boat met the trawler Friday and escorted it into the harbor of its capital, Suva. The teens were met by New Zealand consular officials and taken directly to a hospital for medical checks. Looking thin, the ve," Kean told reporters. "They suffered from severe dehydration, as you notice when they got off some of them were still weak on their legs."
Kean said the teens would not be available to speak to the media until they were healthier.
Fredricsen said the waters where the teenagers were spotted are isolated and commercial vessels rarely pass through. The San Nikuna was there trying to shorten its return journey to New Zealand.
The boys come from the atoll of Atafu, one of three that comprises the tiny Tokelau island group where 1,500 people live.
Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo, picture-perfect South Pacific islets, lie 300 miles (500 kilometers) north of Samoa, surrounded by 128 mostly uninhabited coconut palm-covered islets. The territory has a total land area of just 4.7 square miles (12.2 square kilometers).
--- Associated Press writer Ray Lilley in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)