Two fishermen who were lost, floating in a red-sided icebox of the type used by commercial fishing boats to store their catch, in shark-infested waters for 25 days have been rescued. An Australian Coastwatch plane was flying across the Torres Strait, between Australia and Indonesia, on Saturday when the crew spotted the stranded fishermen desperately waving their shirts.
The men, both from Burma and in their 20s, were on a 12-metre Thai wooden fishing boat with 18 others when it sank in stormy seas off Australia's north coast two days before Christmas. They survived by drinking rain water that gathered at the bottom of the box and by eating pieces of fish that were also in the container.
The two fishermen were winched on to a rescue helicopter and taken to hospital on Thursday Island, off Australia's north coast. "They were desperately keen to get on. When they got up they drank two litres of water each within seconds," the helicopter pilot, Terry Gadenne, told Australian television. Now Australian immigration officials say it is possible two castaway fishermen could seek asylum rather than returning to Myanmar: "Obviously if they did raise claims of protection of course they would be considered" a spokesman for Australia's immigration department said. "Or if they wanted to return home we'd try to facilitate that as well".
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