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Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Saturday, 7 June 2008 16:08 UK

Family joy as lost divers found

Kathleen Mitchinson and Ernest Leandowski
Kathleen Mitchinson hugged her husband when she returned

Relatives of three British divers lost for two days in Indonesia have spoken of their joy after they were found.

Britons Charlotte Allin, James Manning, Kathleen Mitchinson, plus a French and a Swedish diver, had been exploring the waters near the Komodo National Park.

They were swept away by currents and found on a remote island 20 miles away.

One diver said they had spent nine hours adrift, and had had to scare off a Komodo dragon. Ms Allin's father said her family were "very happy".

'We're just lucky'

Speaking from the family home in Northam, near Bideford, in Devon, Dave Allin said his daughter had called to say she was dehydrated and exhausted, but had only cuts and bruises.

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Footage of the rescued divers back on dry land

"She's a bit dehydrated and exhausted. She didn't really understand what all the fuss was about," he said.

Her brother Richard said: "I just know that she clung on. She's such a high-spirited girl and she would never give up and I think that got her through at the end of the day.

"She's been diving for years so she knew exactly what to do, I think they're all very clever people and we're just lucky... it's luck as well as much as judgement in these things."

Scraping shellfish

Ms Allin, 25, and her boyfriend Mr Manning, 30, are diving instructors who have been teaching scuba diving in Phi Phi, Thailand, for about two years.

Her brother said she had not been planning to come home, but was now hoping to return home in the next two or three days.

We were exhausted. Everyone had cramps
Laurent Pinel

Mr Manning's brother, Olly, 27, from Cullompton, in Devon, said his family was also immensely relieved he had been found.

He said: "We have been able to speak to him but only for a few minutes. He was using someone else's phone and did not have long but he was able to say he was OK.

"They are resting up for a bit now and recovering."

Dive master Ernest Lewandowski, whose wife Kathleen Mitchinson had been leading the drive, told the AFP news agency he was ecstatic.

"They are all alive and medical services are on standby. Thank God. I just want to hear my wife's voice," he said, before rushing off to be reunited with her.

Map of Indonesia
Earlier one of the five, French diver Laurent Pinel, 31, described the group's ordeal to AFP.

"We had nothing to eat. We ate some kind of mussels scraped from the rocks," he said.

He said the group had tried to struggle against the current for several hours but stopped in a bid to conserve their energy.

They had then tried one more attempt to reach land on Thursday night after they saw an island in the distance, he said.

He said: "We were exhausted. Everyone had cramps."

He said a Komodo dragon - the world's largest lizard - came amongst the group on Friday afternoon and the group had had to throw rocks to scare it away.

'Really good health'

The five were part of a larger group which had been exploring the waters off Tatawa, near the Komodo marine park about 500km (300 miles) east of Bali, when they failed to return on Thursday afternoon.

James Manning and Charlotte Allin
Diving couple James Manning and Charlotte Allin have been found safe

They were found on Saturday morning on the southern coast of Rinca island - about 20 miles south - by a rescue boat sent out by local dive centres after a two-day search involving the Indonesian army, navy and police.

The group was later taken to a medical centre on nearby Flores island, where they have received water and rest.

"They are really in good health with no wounds whatsoever. They walked by themselves and hugged each other and cried when they reached the port," local policeman Victor Jumadu told AFP.

Komodo National Park is part of a national heritage site boasting around 1,000 fish species as well as pristine corals and sponges.




SEE ALSO
Britons missing on Indonesia dive
06 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Indonesia
20 May 08 |  Country profiles

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