danger on high seas

Two teenage stowaways fleeing from strife-torn Kenya survived an eight-day journey through treacherous seas while clinging to a tiny ledge above a bulk carrier's rudder, the Eastern Province Herald online newspaper said yesterday.

Two teenage stowaways fleeing from strife-torn Kenya survived an eight-day journey through treacherous seas while clinging to a tiny ledge above a bulk carrier's rudder, the Eastern Province Herald online newspaper said yesterday.

The teenagers were rescued off Port Elizabeth on Sunday.

"In a death-defying feat, the two boys - aged just 16 and 18 - survived with just a few dry biscuits, hanging onto a makeshift rope they had made with their clothes," the Heraldsaid.

They survived the journey only because of the light load of the ship.

"Had the carrier had more containers aboard, maritime experts said the rudder would have been below the water line and the teenagers would have drowned," the newspaper said.

Port Elizabeth National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) station commander Ian Gray said that the Tanzanian-born teens had been discovered shortly after the Panamanian-registered New Auspicious arrived in Algoa Bay on Sunday.

The ship had anchored outside the harbour at 9.30am to await port entry instructions when the crew heard noises coming from the rudder section.

Though they could not see anyone, they suspected stowaways and alerted port authorities. The NSRI was called in and the two were subsequently discovered.

After rescuers found them to be in a satisfactory condition, they were taken for a full medical check-up by a state doctor.

The teenagers confirmed that they got onto the ship in Mombasa, Kenya, and that they were born in Tanzania and their families were still there, Gray said.

They said they had left their country to escape "hardships" and had come to South Africa to look for work.

Immigration officials later handed the teens over to police. - Sapa

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