Men stranded on Pacific island saved by giant SOS in sand

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) — Three men have been rescued from a tiny Pacific island after writing a giant SOS sign in the sand that was spotted from above, authorities said.

The men had been missing in the Micronesia archipelago for nearly three days when their distress signal was spotted Sunday on uninhabited Pikelot Island by searchers on Australian and United States (US) aircraft, the Australian Defence Department said on Monday.

The men apparently set out from Pulawat atoll in a seven-metre boat on July 30 and intended to travel about 43 kilometres to Pulap atoll when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel, the department said.

Searchers in Guam asked for Australian help. The military ship, Canberra, which was returning to Australia from exercises in Hawaii, diverted to the area and joined forces with US searchers from Guam.

The men were found about 190 kilometres from where they had set out.

“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfil our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world,” said Canberra’s commanding officer Captain Terry Morrison in a statement.

The men were found in stable condition, and an Australian military helicopter was able to land on the beach and give them food and water. A Micronesian patrol vessel was due to pick them up.

SOS is an internationally recognised distress signal that originates from Morse code.

An Australian Army helicopter lands on Pikelot Island in the Federated States of Micronesia where the three men were found. PHOTO: AP