15 August 2023

Australian surfers rescued after two days missing off Indonesia

15 August 2023

Four Australian tourists and two Indonesians have been rescued after going missing for two days in the waters off Indonesia’s Aceh province.

Peter Foote, the father of Elliot Foote, who had travelled to Indonesia to celebrate his 30th birthday with friends, said he received a text message from his son saying he is OK.

“It says: ‘Hey Dad, Elliot here. I’m alive. Safe now. Love you. Chat later,’” Mr Foote said at a news conference in Sydney on Tuesday.

“It’s great, it’s good news. I’ll have to talk to him and want to see photos and see what he looks like. It’s all good.”

A wooden speedboat carrying the four Australians and three Indonesian crew members ran into bad weather on Sunday. The details of how they ended up in the sea remain unclear.

One Indonesian crew member is still missing, according to the head of the local rescue agency.

Mr Foote was told his son had paddled his surfboard to an island to raise the alarm, and that the other three Australians were found clinging to their boards at sea. It is not clear how the two Indonesians survived.

The six who were rescued were taken to Pinang island for further medical assistance.

Elliot Foote, his partner Steph Weisse, and friends Will Teagle and Jordan Short, along with the three Indonesians, were in the boat in water around Sarang Alu and Banyak islands.

They were part of a group of 12 Australians and five Indonesians in two boats who were traveling to Pinang Island, a destination known for its pristine beach and good waves for surfing.

The boats left Nias island, which is located around 93 miles from Sumatra island, on Sunday afternoon and experienced bad weather with very heavy rain during the trip.

Ten of them decided to stay and shelter on Sarang Alu island while the others continued the trip. The resort on Pinang Island later reported to the agency that the boat with 10 passengers had safely arrived later on Sunday night but the boat that had left earlier had not been seen.

Mr Foote said he expected his son and friends would continue the final eight days of their surfing holiday.

Indonesia is an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, and ferries and boats are a common form of transport. With lax safety standards and problems with overcrowding, accidents occur frequently.

In July, an overloaded passenger boat capsized off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, killing 15 people.

In 2018, an overcrowded ferry with about 200 people on board sank in a lake in North Sumatra province, killing 167 people. In one of the country’s worst recorded disasters, an overcrowded passenger ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people aboard. Only 20 people survived.

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