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Burmese ‘castaways’ finally allowed to go home

Tun Naing Oo, Nyi Nyi and Zaw Naing Oo pose for photos in Chennai after their ordeal at sea. (PHOTO: The Hindu)

Three Burmese fishermen who were rescued after floating across the Indian Ocean for 40 days and nights on a small bamboo boat have finally been given the green light to go home, The Hindu reported on Sunday.

The three fishermen, Tun Naing Oo, Nyi Nyi and Zaw Naing Oo, who are all in their 30s, left Chennai [Madras] by train on Sunday to Kolkata [Calcutta] where they are due to travel back to Rangoon, the Indian daily said.

“We were fishing in the Bay of Bengal near home, with our bamboo boat anchored. A sudden storm and huge tides damaged the anchor and, despite our efforts, the raft kept drifting further into the sea,” said Nyi Nyi, speaking to The Hindu.

They lived for only two days on the rations of rice, dried fish and drinking water that they had in their boat. Beyond that, they had to survive on rainwater and catching fish, said Tun Naing Oo.

They were eventually saved by a fishing crew from Tamil-Nadu State.

However, their ordeal was not quite over – they were charged by Indian authorities with illegal entry into India’s waters. Although they could have faced up to one year in prison, they were each let off with a fine of 11,700 Indian rupees (US$190) by the local immigration office for “overstay”, during the time it took to get new documents, the report said.