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In what some are calling good fortune and others are referring to as a miracle, three teenagers who were thought to be dead were found alive by a fishing boat after being adrift in the South Pacific for 50 days well outside of commercial shipping routes, officials in New Zealand said.
Family members of the two 15-year-olds and one 14-year-old, from the Tokelau Islands of New Zealand, alerted local search and rescue that something was wrong, and then the New Zealand air force launched a search of the area, according to Sky News. The boys had been presumed dead two weeks ago, and their small village had even held memorial services for them when their small aluminum dinghy was found Wednesday afternoon.
The boys, Samuel Pelesa, Filo Filo, and Edward Nasau had set out in October – apparently without permission, according to the Daily Telegraph. They had been rowing in the Atafu Atoll in the Tokelau Islands, a remote sprinkling of islets about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, with plans to travel from one island to another, rescuer Tai Fredricsen said.
Mr. Fredricsen said the boys had 20 coconuts on board when they left home, which they ate within the first couple of days. For the next 48 days, they survived on rainwater, and by catching and eating fish and a sea bird.
Fredericsen told New Zealand radio, when he found the boys some 600 miles from home, that "All they could say was 'thank you very much for stopping'."
"It's a miracle," said Tanu Filo, the father of Filo Filo, reported CNN. "The whole village, they were so excited and cried and they sang songs and were hugging each other in the road."