Pacific castaways survive 4 weeks adrift

From left: Sailors Moamoa Kamwea, Tatika Ukenio, Bonibai Akau and Boiti Tetinauiko at Majuro hospital after being rescued and taken to the Marshall Islands, on May 4, 2016.
From left: Sailors Moamoa Kamwea, Tatika Ukenio, Bonibai Akau and Boiti Tetinauiko at Majuro hospital after being rescued and taken to the Marshall Islands, on May 4, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (AFP) - Four men have been rescued after spending nearly a month adrift in the Pacific surviving on fish after their boat was blown off course by a storm.

The men, given a clean bill of health on arrival in the Marshall Islands, were dropped off in the capital Majuro by a fishing trawler which found their small wooden boat several hundred kilometres south of the city.

Tatika Ukenio, Boiti Tetinauiko, Bonibai Akau and Moamoa Kamwea told officials they left their home in Kiribati, an island nation more than 650km from the Marshalls, on March 23.

Although details of their ordeal are still sketchy, they were blown off course by a storm and later turned off their single outboard engine to conserve fuel and began drifting.

They survived by catching fish with gear they had on board before spotting the Taiwanese-owned, Marshalls-flagged "Koo's 102" on April 18.

When the castaways saw the trawler, they had enough fuel left to get close to the vessel and attract the crew's attention.

Koo's Fishing Company representative Orlando Paul said the men were "fit and well" after being picked up, so the trawler continued its fishing expedition before returning to Majuro on Wednesday.

The men were taken to Majuro Hospital, where doctors said they were healthy.

They are staying at the Marshall Islands Resort while the foreign ministry and the International Organisation for Migration arrange their repatriation to Kiribati, expected on Sunday.

Epic tales of survival are not uncommon in the northern Pacific, where tiny islands are separated by vast expanses of ocean.

Another Koo's trawler rescued three Mexican drifters who were lost at sea for nine months in 2006.

In January 2014, Salvadoran fisherman Jose Alvarenga washed up in the Marshalls, more than 13 months after he set off from Mexico's west coast with a companion, who died during the voyage.