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7 scuba divers still missing

16 February 2014, 09:17

Denpasar - Indonesian rescuers on Sunday resumed their search for seven Japanese scuba divers who vanished during a dive near Bali two days ago, a consular official said.

A search party was combing the seas for the five tourists and two instructors - all women - who went missing during their third dive near the islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida southeast of Bali on Friday afternoon, deputy consul general of Japan in Bali Yasue Katsunobu said.

Their boat's skipper called the police after the women did not resurface, Katsunobo said, adding the boat was hired from Yellow Scuba on the beachside strip of Sanur.

"We are still searching for the seven missing divers. So far there's no indication of where they are," Katsunobo told AFP on Sunday.

"On Saturday, the search and rescue agency and maritime police went out from six in the morning, and they've gone out today as well with a large boat and a helicopter," he said, adding that fishermen and other Bali-based Japanese diving instructors were voluntarily assisting in the search.

Rescuers searched until 15:00 on Saturday when bad weather conditions, including heavy rain, forced them to halt the mission, according to Katsunobo.

The skipper said that he was following the divers for some 20 minutes before a sudden downpour of rain made the water cloudy, according to a report in Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

He moved his 10-metre-long boat to a point some hundreds of metres away where the divers were expected to resurface at an agreed time, the report said.

The skipper said he searched for them for an hour before reporting the incident.

"I've been guiding since 2009, and I've been to the area (of the accident) many times. Why did this happen?" he said in the report.

Katsunobo said that the seven women were very experienced scuba divers with at least 50 dives each under their belts.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said the missing women were named by police and rescue authorities as: Ritsuko Miyata, 59, Emi Yamamoto, 33, Nahomi Tomita, 28, Aya Morizono, 27, Atsumi Yoshinobe, 29, Shoko Takahashi, 29, and Saori Furukawa, 27.

Bali is often pounded by heavy afternoon rain during the wet season, which lasts around six months of the year.

Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are popular scuba diving spots and are part of the Coral Triangle, widely considered the world's richest underwater wilderness.

The Coral Triangle includes the waters of six nations in the Indian and Pacific oceans - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.



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