DARWIN (AP) - A woman who was stranded in the arid central Australian Outback almost two weeks ago has been rescued, and a search was continuing on Monday (Dec 2) for her two friends.
Ms Tamra McBeath-Riley, 52, was being treated at an Alice Springs hospital for dehydration and exposure after she was found late on Sunday, police superintendent Pauline Vicary said.
The air search continued on Monday for her friends Claire Hockridge, 46, and Phu Tran, 40.
The three set out from Alice Springs for an afternoon drive on Nov 19 and their car became bogged in a riverbed south-west of the town.
Ms McBeath-Riley found water about 1.5km north of the car.
"Sensibly, she appears to have stayed where the water is and has been drinking that and that's probably what kept her going," Ms Vicary told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Ms McBeath-Riley said she and her companions found a waterhole. Her companions began trekking 20km toward a highway on Thursday, planning to avoid the desert heat, which came close to 40 deg C in recent days, by walking at night and carrying up to 7 litres of water.
Ms McBeath-Riley said she decided to stay at the waterhole with a dog that she did not think would survive a walk to the Stuart Highway, which connects Australia’s north and south coasts.
They did not know anyone was looking for them.
"When the helicopter found me, I thought that Claire and Phu had reached the highway. That was my immediate thought. So to find that’s not the case is worrying," Ms McBeath-Riley told reporters.
Ms Vicary said searchers had found one set of footprints. "It’s quite a diverse terrain. There’s sandy dunes, there’s hard clay, there’s areas of dense trees, but there are also rocks and ranges in the area," Ms Vicary said.
The pair had little food with them, she said.
A cattle rancher played a key role in saving the woman, telling police he had spotted tyre tracks in an area that had not been searched.
"As a result of that information, we were able to locate the vehicle and then from there, they have followed some of the other tracks and have located her," Ms Vicary said.