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Castaway kids found after a week

July 14, 2004 19:23 IST

Three children who were marooned on a deserted Australian island for a week survived on coconuts and shellfish after swimming through waters infested by sharks and crocodiles, reports the Telegraph, London

'In a classic Robinson Crusoe-style story of survival, Philip, 11, and his sisters Ellis, 15, and Norita, 10, swam to an uninhabited island after their small boat capsized in the Torres Strait, between the northern tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea,' the article said.

'Their parents and three-year-old brother, last seen clinging to the upturned vessel, are still missing.'

According to the article, the family set out on Tuesday aboard their 16ft-long fishing boat on a 30-mile trip, four hour trip from the island of Badu to Thursday Island, the administrative capital of the Torres Strait, to attend a birthday party.

But two hours into the journey the boat's engine cut out in heavy seas and it started getting swamped.

The father, Naseli Nona, 60, a minister, and mother, Lisa, 40, told the older children to swim for land while they stayed with the toddler, Clarence.

"They kept looking back and they

could see their mum and dad in the water until a good distance away and then when they looked back they couldn't see them any more," the article quoted a relative, Wendy Phineasa, as saying. 

'The children reached a rocky shoal and scraped oysters off the rocks and drank the milk from a coconut which floated past. After three miserable days on the rocks, the children summoned up the courage to swim along a chain of reefs until they reached the tiny island of Matu,' the Telegraph said.

Philip reportedly helped and supported his sisters to swim. "He was the leader," Ellis was quoted as saying. "He put us on his back. We found coconuts and wongai [a type of date] on Matu and ate them. But we had nowhere to sleep, no blankets, and we were cold most of the time."

Nearly a week later, when boatloads of people trying to find were about to give up, they were found by their uncle in Matu. "They were all shivering and really weak, and they just ran to him and hugged him and started crying. They all started telling him what had happened and said 'You've got to go look for mum and dad'," Mrs Phineasa was quoted as saying.

But though rescue workers launched an air and sea search, chances of finding them were bleak, the article said.