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2 missing foreigners rescued at sea

DUMAGUETE CITY—A Canadian and an Indian with American citizenship, who went scuba diving in the renowned dive destination of Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental, have been rescued, several hours after they were reported missing at 4 p.m. Monday.

The divers were identified as Matthew La France of Canada, 41, temporarily residing in Lipayo, Dauin, and Swayam Rawla, 30, with local address at Dumaguete Spring Hotel, also in Lipayo, Dauin.

The two had been at sea for nine hours after they were carried away by strong currents and waves off Apo Island on Monday afternoon.

Lt. Junior Grade Donna Liza Ramacho, the Dumaguete Philippine Coast Guard station commander, alerted the coast guard station command in Apo Island and other units to launch a search operation.

After hours of scouring the area, the Coast Guard had to call off the search due to darkness and would have resumed it the following day.

However, they received word that a cargo vessel bound for Iloilo City had seen the two divers in the water and rescued them.

Around 9:20 p.m. Monday, one of the crew members of M/V Fortune Gold, a 74-meter Philippine-flagged cargo vessel loaded with 57,000 sacks of cement, heard shouts for help at sea.

It took the boat’s crew 25 minutes to finally find the divers, who were afloat with their respective diving gear, said ship captain Ricarte Hibalay of Bohol. 

Hibalay said the two foreigners were found 11.8 nautical miles southwest of Apo Island. They would have drifted further south due to the strong current and waves and could have reached the Mindanao Sea had they not been found.

Hibalay said he decided to bring the rescued divers to the port of Dumaguete.

On hand to meet the rescued divers at 2:45 a.m. Tuesday were the One Rescue, Dumaguete police, the tourist police, and Ramacho.

The local Coast Guard chief said the efforts made by the cargo vessel to find the divers who were shouting for help deserves recognition.

La France, one of the instructors of, said they realized how fortunate they are, knowing they had little chance of being rescued in the middle of the sea. His wristwatch computer showed they started to go down at 1:08 Monday afternoon and their dive time was only 46 minutes.

According to him, he was surprised as to why the boat that dropped them off at Apo Island failed to come back at the designated area and time. 

La France said they noticed that the boat headed back to mainland Apo Island at about 4:21 in the afternoon. They tried to swim back to the island but the current was so strong and carried them despite them dropping some of their weight belts.

Ramacho said a formal investigation is being conducted to validate the claims of the two divers. She said the will be asking for the side of the motorboat operator or its skipper because it was not the first time that the two went scuba diving in the area. 

Topics: 2 missing foreigners rescued at sea
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