17-year-old Taiwanese student survives after 21 hours at sea

17-year-old Taiwanese student survives after 21 hours at sea

TAIPEI - A 17-year-old female student who spent 21 hours adrift at sea off the northern coast called home after a miraculous rescue yesterday.

Zhang Hui-yu and three male companions were thrown off a banana boat five minutes after they took off from Repulse Bay in New Taipei City's Sanzhi District at around 7 p.m. on Monday. The three men were able to swim back to the shore but they were unable to find Zhang.

They called police after 50 minutes of searching.

Rescuers launched multiple sea and air missions but were unable to find Zhang. Distraught family members feared the worst and hung a T-shirt worn by Zhang at the beach in a traditional Chinese ritual to show souls lost at sea the way home.

Zhang, who had been wearing a life vest, was picked up by a fishing boat off Keelung, one nautical mile from where she was thrown off, at around 5 p.m. yesterday.

She broke the good news of her survival to her parents on a cellphone borrowed from a crew member. She was sent directly to MacKay Memorial Hospital after reaching the shore.

Despite spending almost a day adrift at sea, Zhang was in relatively good shape and apparently suffered only from slight dehydration and sunburn.

Chen Jin-ji, captain of the fishing boat, told a local TV news channel that he was only able to rescue Zhang because she was just 10 meters away from his vessel and she was yelling for help. It is a "rare" rescue against the odds, he said.

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