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Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Saturday, 24 May 2008 12:32 UK

Great Barrier Reef divers found

A still from video footage of the rescued divers
The divers were rescued after an 18-hour search

Two scuba divers have been found alive after spending a night missing on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Briton Richard Neely, 38, and 40-year-old American Allison Dalton were rescued nine miles from where they left their chartered diving boat.

They were lifted to safety after an 18-hour search by a dozen aircraft.

The divers were flown to a hospital in the state of Queensland, where they are said to be in good spirits despite suffering mild hypothermia.

They were spotted by a rescue helicopter near the Whitsunday Islands off Queensland's coast.

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Officials said the two were lucky to be alive, and credited their survival to their diving experience and ability to remain calm.

"They strapped themselves together using their weight belts, they conserved energy, stayed as a pair and awaited rescue," said Shane Chelepy, a Queensland police official.

The divers had become lost on Friday when they resurfaced 200 yards (metres) from their dive boat after a reef dive.

Officials said it was inevitable such mishaps would occur on the Great Barrier Reef - the world's largest coral reef system - which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney.

Mr Neely, from Swaffham, Norfolk, trained at the West Norfolk Sub Aqua Club. Diving officer Simon Phelan, who trained Mr Neely, said: "Knowing Rich, he's quite a calm chap.

"He always looked on the bright side, so I am sure he was keeping his spirits up the whole time."


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