UPDATE: February 19, 9:32 AM It was reported late last night that a body of one of the missing Japanese divers was found washed ashore in Bali. It isn’t clear yet if this was one of the final two that were said to be found, or if they were originally mis-identified.
After going missing for three days, five of the seven missing Japanese scuba divers were rescued on Monday. They were spotted by local fishermen clinging to a coral reef in rough waters off the Indonesian resort island of Bali. The divers were found around 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where they initially started on a diving expedition, and Indonesian authorities said that the rescue was done by helicopter. And late on Monday night, the final two divers have also been found – they were sheltered on a steep cliff face in an islet in the same area, with authorities still trying to rescue them also by helicopter.
The first to be rescued was Saori Furukawa, this according to Bali search and rescue chief Didi Hamzar. “She seemed in quite good health and even helped me search for the others after she was rescued,” said rescue helicopter pilot Dian Bashari. The divers were found in an area called Manta Point, off the west coast of Nusa Penida island, southeast of Bali. Furukawa herself was separated from the others by around several hundred meters. After rescuing her, the helicopter tried to get to the others but could not get close enough to pick up the other four. Two of the rescuers had to go into the water to deliver supplies of food to them, this according to Hamzar. A boat was then dispatched to pick them up and they were brought to Semawang beach in southern Bali before being taken to a hospital by ambulance. Furukawa suffered minor injuries, but it was not clear if the others were hurt or not.
Late on Monday, the final two divers were found around one kilometer east of where the first five divers were rescued. Nyoman Suarsika, the chief of the police in the area said that authorities couldn’t rescue the women immediately on Monday night because of darkness. “The location is very challenging and it’s not safe to conduct a rescue operation,” Suarsika said, adding the corals make it difficult for boat to get close to the two survivors. “We are still assessing if we can pluck them with helicopters,” he said.
The women were experienced scuba divers who had logged more than 50 dives each, but a sudden downpour of rain had made the waters cloudy and the dive skipper had trouble locating the divers. Moreover, according to the skipper, they had not resurfaced at the agreed time and location. When the Japanese divers failed to resurface, the skipper said that he searched for an hour before reporting the incident. Hamzar told reporters on Sunday he had also received information that the skipper had run out of fuel at some point, and had to refuel before heading to the agreed meeting spot. Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the missing women were named by police and rescue authorities as: Ritsuko Miyata, 59, Emi Yamamoto, 33, Nahomi Tomita, 28, Aya Morizono, 27, Atsumi Yoshinobe, 29, Shoko Takahashi, 29, as well as Furukawa.