Updated: 02/18/2014 19:13 | By Agence France-Presse

Hopes rise for Japan divers missing off Bali after five rescued

Indonesian police said Tuesday they believe villagers on Bali have spotted two Japanese scuba divers alive four days after they went missing, following the astonishing rescue of five others in the same group.


Hopes rise for Japan divers missing off Bali after five rescued

A Japanese scuba diver is carried onto an ambulance after she is rescued in rough waters off Bali island on February 17, 2014 - by Sonny Tumbelaka

As rescuers scoured the area where the remaining divers were believed to be, details emerged of the ordeal suffered by those already saved, including how they had no food for three days and survived only by drinking rainwater.

The seven women, all experienced divers, disappeared Friday after setting out on a diving expedition from Nusa Lembongan, just east of the resort island of Bali. 

As days passed hopes faded that any of the women would be found alive in an area known for its stunning underwater beauty but also strong, unpredictable currents.

But fishermen found five of the women clinging to a coral reef in rough waters on Monday, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from where they set off, and rescuers plucked them to safety in a helicopter and lifeboat.

On Tuesday police said that villagers had reported seeing two people on a coral reef near the same area sending distress signals by shining lights the previous night.

"We believe they are the missing Japanese divers and they are alive," local police chief Nyoman Suarsika told AFP.

He said rescuers were on the way to the area close to Manta Point, off Nusa Penida island, which lies next to Nusa Lembongan. 

However by late afternoon rescue agency official Wayan Suyatna said the divers had still not been located after searches of the area by a helicopter and several boats.

The five women who have been rescued are all in hospital in Bali. They have suffered dehydration and sunburn but none are in a serious condition, doctors said.

"We caused many people so much worry over this case," one of the divers, Saori Furukawa, wrote in a note handed to Japanese media from her hospital bed.

"I would like to take a rest for a while, hoping the remaining two are alive."

- Survived on rainwater -

A doctor at a hospital in the Balinese capital Denpasar, where the other four women are being treated, said they had survived by drinking rainwater. Heavy downpours are common at this time of year during Indonesia's six-month rainy season.

"For three days they drink rain, only drink, no food," said doctor A.A. Ngurah Jaya Kusuma. "Their medical condition is good."

An AFP reporter at the hospital saw one of the women walking down a corridor with burns on her face and a drip in one of her arms.

The women at first floated together in a group and were swept along by bad weather, strong currents and high waves, rescue official Suyatna told local radio.

They became separated when some of the group attempted to swim towards a passing tugboat, he added.

The news was splashed across the front page of major newspapers in Japan, many carrying images of one rescued woman lying on a stretcher, while TV news also supplied regular coverage of the dramatic scene.

Friends and colleagues of the two still missing said they were clinging to the belief they were alive.

"I believe the two still missing are floating somewhere near the spot where the five were discovered," said diving instructor Toru Furuyama, 40, who knows one of the pair.

Another friend Hideki Terayama, an underwater photographer who helped with an effort to raise funds to search for the divers, wrote on his Facebook page: "Let's pray that the other two will be found."

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