WELLINGTON (AFP) - Two Kiribati fishermen lost at sea for days were found on Wednesday (May 18), just six minutes into a search that targeted a massive patch of ocean, New Zealand rescue officials said.
Search coordinator Mike Roberts described it as a "fantastic" outcome after a New Zealand Air Force Orion located the men 480km from Nauru, the nearest land, five days after they went missing.
"I can't recall another search being successful so quickly," Mr Roberts said, adding that the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand determined the most likely area to look for the men who failed to return from a fishing trip last Friday.
Rescuers had marked 43,000 sq km of ocean to scour for the operation.
"The search area was obviously correct and the aircraft has made its approach from precisely the right direction. While there is an element of luck involved, the Orion crew have done a fantastic job."
A survival pack of food, water and a radio was dropped from the plane and a rescue vessel from Kiribati was heading to the area to pick up the men, who were in a 4.5m boat and appeared to be in good health.
It was the second successful rescue mission this month involving fishermen from the tiny equatorial Pacific nation of Kiribati.
Last Saturday, three men were found drifting at sea, seven days after being reported missing.