An Indonesian teen has been rescued after drifting at sea for 49 days on a floating fish trap and is back safely with his family, according to the country’s foreign affairs ministry.
19-year-old Aldi Novel Adilang had been working as a lamp keeper on a remote fishing trap – known locally as a rompong – situated 125 kilometers off the northern coast of Manado in the province of North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Rompongs, which look like small huts, are fish aggregator devices that sit upon buoys or floats and are anchored to concrete blocks on the seafloor by rope.
Adilang’s job was to light lamps powered by a generator on the trap each night to attract fish. He was hired to spend six months on rompongs, with someone visiting at the end of each week to drop off food, water and fuel supplies and harvest the fish, the Jakarta Post reported.
He told CNN affiliate CNN Indonesia that in mid-July strong southerly winds had caused high waves, resulting in the anchor rope rubbing until it broke. He said that he had communication with friends on another raft for a week but after that was alone.
The platform made it all the way to the waters of Guam where he was picked up by a Panamanian-flagged ship, MV Arpeggio, on August 31, before it continued onto Tokuyama port in the Yamaguchi prefecture of Japan.
He said that he saw many ships during his time adrift and shouted in Indonesian and banged a can to attract attention. Eventually, by shouting “help” in English he was able to attract the attention of the Arpeggio, which rescued him.
“Aldi said he had been scared and often cried while adrift,” said Fajar Firdaus, a diplomat at the Indonesian consulate in Osaka, according to the Jakarta Post report.
“Every time he saw a large ship, he said, he was hopeful, but more than 10 ships had sailed past him, none of them stopped or saw Aldi.”
After arriving on September 6, Adilang was examined by the Japanese Coast Guard and declared healthy enough to return to his home country, the Indonesian foreign affairs ministry said.
Two days later, the Indonesian Consulate in Osaka facilitated his return flight home. Consul General Mirza Nurhidayat told CNN that Adilang had recovered well since being plucked from the ocean in August.
“He was taken care well by the captain of the ship, so when we saw him, his condition was actually better than the first time he was rescued,” Nurhidayat said. He added that upon being informed by the Japanese Coast Guard of the teen’s rescue, the consulate in Osaka immediately began looking for his family in Indonesia to inform them.
The Indonesian Consulate in Osaka posted a statement on Facebook on September 14 saying that the young man was now back with his family in Manado and in “good condition.”
The post added that the consulate expressed its appreciation “to all parties involved in rescuing and returning Aldi home safely to Indonesia.”
Journalist Mochamad Andri reported from Jakarta while CNN’s Lauren Said-Moorhouse wrote from London.