Two divers still missing may be safe

Bali villagers spot pair on reef after rescue of party's other five

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

Indonesian police said Tuesday they believe that villagers on Bali have spotted two Japanese divers alive, following the dramatic rescue of five others in the missing group.

Five of the seven women who vanished Friday off Bali were rescued Monday after being found a dozen miles from their last dive site, clinging to a reef on the southern coast of Nusa Penida Island, officials said.

Nusa Penida police Chief Nyoman Suarsika said he believed the remaining pair of divers were spotted alive near where the others were rescued.

“Villagers on a small island looking from the top of a hill reported to us that they saw two people on a coral reef last night,” he said.

“The two people were sending distress signals by shining lights but it was too late to carry out a rescue.

“We believe they are the missing Japanese divers and they are alive. The coral is very steep. We have not been able to reach them yet,” he said

None of the five rescued women, undergoing treatment for dehydration and sunburn in a hospital on Bali, is in serious condition, doctors said.

The five were identified as Saori Furukawa, 37, Aya Morizono, 27, Emi Yamamoto, 33, Nahomi Tomita, 28, and Atsumi Yoshidome, 29.

Still missing are Ritsuko Miyata, 59, and Shoko Takahashi, 35.

Furukawa and Takahashi are locally based instructors who led the expedition, run through dive shop Yellow Scuba.

Fishermen spotted the five in the afternoon some 20 km away from their last known diving point, which was near adjacent Nusa Lembongan Island, but could not reach them because the waves were too high.

One was later rescued by helicopter that also dropped food to the other four, who were later picked up by a rescue boat for transport to Semawang beach near Denpasar, the provincial capital.

“There were five found atop a large coral reef” at Manta Point, said Rudi Tjandi, an official from the Bali disaster agency. “The waves and current were quite strong, so the fishermen who spotted them couldn’t approach.”

The group of seven had set off for their third dive Friday near the mangrove area of Nusa Lembongan, one of two small islands just west of Nusa Penida, but never surfaced. The shortest route to where they ended up was around 20 km long.

“They are in weak condition,” Suarsika said.

The three islands are popular dive spots situated off Bali’s southeast coast. The divers’ disappearance triggered a huge search early Saturday, but rescuers were hampered by poor weather that included heavy rain and strong winds.

By Monday afternoon, however, the women had been spotted in waters about 300 meters off Nusa Penida, Suarsika said.

Nusa Lembongan is popular with seasoned scuba divers for its clear waters, coral reefs and tropical fish, but is also known for its fast currents.

A previous report quoted Suarsika as saying the group began diving in the deadly Crystal Bay mangrove area off Nusa Penida at 1 p.m. Friday, their third dive of the day.

Ketut Nata, 69, the Balinese father-in-law of the other instructor, Shoko Takahashi, earlier expressed hope the missing divers would be found soon, dead or alive.

Nata said he and his family have been praying at a temple every day since Saturday, hoping for Takahashi’s safety.

Monday in the arms of their weeping son, Putu Mahardana, Nata’s wife, Nyoman Taman, could not stop crying at the prospect of losing her beloved daughter-in-law.

Takahashi and Mahardana once worked together at a diving company owned by one of his relatives.

They married in 2004 and set up their own company, Yellow Scuba, which was involved in running Friday’s dive.

It was learned Monday that three of the missing women are nurses at Kobe University Hospital.