'SOS' written on sand saves Pacific island mariners
An "SOS" inscription left on the beach of a tiny Pacific Island directed rescuers to rescue mariners, the United States and Australian authorities reported on Tuesday.
The three men on Thursday had set out in a 7-metre boat to make a 46-kilometre journey from Pulawat to Pulap atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia.
According to the US and Australian authorities, they went off course ad ran out of fuel while landing on a tiny uninhabited Pikelot Island, about 190 kilometres away from the intended destination.
When the men didn't arrive Pulap- their original destination, a search was requested through the US Coast Guard's Joint Rescue Sub Center in Guam, which also requested help from units in the region.
The US Air Force KC-135 tanker operating out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam first spotted the three Micronesian men after three hours search according to a post on the base's Facebook page.
"We were toward the end of our search pattern. We turned to avoid some rain showers, and that's when we looked down and saw an Island, so we decided to check it out, and that's when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach.
"From there, we called in the Australian Navy because they had two helicopters nearby that could assist and land on the Island", the KC-135, Lt Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen said in the post.
A helicopter from the Australian amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra was sent which landed on the beach and dropped food and water for the stranded trio while Australian troops checked out their identities and confirmed that they had no major injuries.
A statement from the US Coast Guard said the rescuers and mariners kept some distances apart because of the COVID-19.
A Coast Guard in a statement said, "After discussions between the responding partners, it was decided the safest course of action for both the response agencies' crews and the mariners was to limit exposure to one another due to the COVID-19 pandemic".
Captain Terry Morrison, commander of the Canberra, praised his crew saying;
"I am proud of the response and professionalism of all board as we fulfil our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world".
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