Asia-Pacific

Three teenagers survive 50 days adrift in Pacific

Filo Filo, Samu Perez and Edward Nasau
Image caption The teenagers survived mainly on coconuts and rainwater

Three teenage boys have been found alive after being lost in their boat in the Pacific Ocean for 50 days.

The boys, from the Tokelau Islands, a New Zealand-administered territory in the South Pacific, had been given up for dead after an unsuccessful search.

A tuna fishing boat picked them up near Fiji and is taking them to hospital for treatment for severe sunburn.

The boys survived on coconuts, water they trapped on a tarpaulin and a seabird they managed to catch.

'Strong mental spirit'

The boys - Samu Perez and Filo Filo, both 15, and Edward Nasau, 14 - had gone missing from Atafu atoll in a small aluminium boat after an annual sporting event on 5 October.

They were presumed to have died after unsuccessful searches by the New Zealand air force.

The boys were then spotted north-east of Fiji on Wednesday afternoon by a member of the tuna boat's crew.

"We drew up next to them, and we asked if they needed any help and their reply was a very ecstatic 'yes'," the tuna vessel's first mate, Tai Fredricsen, told the BBC.

"We immediately deployed our rescue craft and got them straight on board and administered basic first aid."

Mr Fredricsen said the boys had a small supply of coconuts on their boat, but that it had run out after two days.

"They had a period when they were only drinking fresh water, which they were capturing during the night in a tarpaulin," he said.

"They also told me that two weeks prior to us rescuing them, they were able to catch a sea bird which was very lucky for them."

"They did mention that during the last two days they had started drinking salt water, which could have been disastrous for them," he added.

Mr Fredricsen said the boys were in surprisingly good shape considering their ordeal under the blazing tropical sun.

"They've got a lot of gusto, a lot of strong mental spirit," he said, adding that though they were physically in a bad way, they were "mentally [...] very strong".

An aunt of Samu Perez told the BBC that the family had already held a memorial service for him and that everyone had been devastated.

"My mum, she cried every day and every night," Fekei said. "We believed he was still alive anyway, we thought that God was still with them."

She said she thought the boys might have been trying to sail to Australia or the US.

After speaking to Sam on the telephone, she said: "He was asking for forgiveness. I think they did learn a big lesson".