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Ie fisherman survives 20 days adrift

Date Posted: 2011-07-07

A 70-year-old Okinawa squid fisherman is alive and well at home after an adventure that took him and his small vessel far from where he intended after the engine failed.

Yoshimitsu Shimabukuro set off from Gushi Fishing Port on Ie Island June 8th, planning a ten-day squid fishing trip planned through the Ie Fishermen’s Cooperative. Two days into the trip, his squid boat, the Hikari-maru, began running rough, and then the engine stopped. He was last seen about 150 kilometers east from Cape Hedo at 5 p.m. on June 10th.

Searches were launched on the 18th after Shimabukuro failed to return, as coordinated with the Ie Fishermen’s Cooperative, but no trace of the fisherman sailing alone was found.

A foreign cargo vessel first spotted Shimabukuro’s small fishing boat at 11:40 a.m. last Thursday, drifting about 70km south-southwest of Cape Moroto in Kochi Prefecture, and placed a report with the 5th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters. The spotting was about 700 miles from where Shimabukuro was last seen by Cape Hedo.

A Coast Guard aircraft kept watch on Shimabukuro through the early afternoon Thursday, until the Coast Guard patrol boat Arase arrived on scene at 3:40 p.m. and rescued him. He was immediately taken to Kochi Port in Kochi City, arriving in mid-evening to undergo a medical checkup. Doctors gave Shimabukuro a good report, noting he was suffering from low nutrition and dehydration, as well as from dryness of the mouth that made it difficult for him to speak. Conscious, but “he looks fairly okay”.

Shimabukuro now says he had engine trouble two days out of his Okinawa home port,a nd things got worse because his radio was broken too. He says he had only water while he was drifting, and that he had no food.

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