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Four women rescued after 16-hour overnight ordeal

Date Posted: 2011-09-30

Four snorkelers who were caught up in a reef current off Ishigaki Island, sucked out to sea and spent more than sixteen hours clinging to bits of debris in the water before being rescued, are all recovering well.

The process of the four women being rescued began with a man walking along the Yoshiwara seashore in Kawahira district of Ishigaki City who “heard a voice calling for help from the open sea.” He contacted police, who alerted a local fire rescue team that spotted the four women floating about 200 meters offshore, drifting in the current. The four women were weak and suffering from hypothermia, and were taken to an Ishigakii hospital where they’re reported in good condition.

Yaeyama Police believe the women were carried out to sea by an offshore current, noting the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory had announced a high-wave advisory at the seashore until 9 p.m. the 22nd, and that waves were reportedly high that day. The area where the women were caught and carried to sea was at a point where two ocean currents meet, and where there’s a lot of floating debris.

That’s what saved the lives of the four women, all restaurant workers in Ishigaki City. Kay Kushiki, 22, Azusa Yamaoka, 21, Mami Okamoto, 22, and a 35-year-old unidentified female were all floating and drifting together. The Ishigaki Coast Guard Office says there’s a radical current occurring from the sea area in a coral reef to the open sea that carried the ladies out to sea, noting it was difficult to spot the ladies.

Ishigaki firefighters say the four were floating together the entire time, from about 4 p.m. until the next morning when they were rescued. Two were holding on to two polystyrene pieces, each about 15 inches square and tied together, while a third was clinging to a one-meter-long fluorescent light that was replaced as a life buoy.

A 40—year-old marine shop worker, Nobuyuki Kuroshima, rescued the women using his personal watercraft after he was asked by a fire station rescue team. He said the women were all covered with scratches from head to foot, were growing weak, shivering and repeating “cold, cold”. Two walked to ambulances on their own, but the others had to be carried.

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