TAIPEI (AFP) — Eight Taiwanese scuba divers have been rescued nearly 48 hours after going missing off the island's south, the coastguard said Monday.
In a remarkable feat of endurance, one of the divers managed to swim ashore and told rescuers where they could find the others, a spokesman said.
"Five were plucked from the sea by helicopters at dawn Monday and at around 10:47 am (0247 GMT) the last two missing divers were rescued," the spokesman said.
"They all remained conscious but appeared exhausted. They are now hospitalised," he said.
The six men and two women, all experienced divers, went diving at 10:30 am Saturday near Chihsingyen (Seven Star Rock) off Kenting national park, but failed to return to their boat an hour later as scheduled.
After a lengthy wait for rescuers, the group's coach Ding Bo-ling set off on a more than 10-hour swim for shore, finally reaching land before midnight Sunday at Taimali, 76 kilometres (47 miles) further north.
The remaining divers saved energy by floating on their backs and held hands to avoid being separated, local ERA TV reported.(Apparently, they also used the flashes from their cameras to get the attention of the passing rescue helicopters).
Five helicopters and nine patrol boats had been dispatched for the round-the-clock rescue operations, while the divers' relatives also hired fishing boats to join the search.
In a similar accident in the area nine years ago, six divers were washed away by strong ocean currents, and four of them were rescued after 30 hours.