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Stranded divers chase off Komodo dragon on island





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Posted by on June 08, 2008 at 12:54:23:

AKARTA, Indonesia (AP) Scuba divers swept away in strong currents survived 12 hours in shark-infested waters before scrambling onto a remote Indonesian island where they faced yet another threat: a Komodo dragon.

The divers three from Britain and one each from France and Sweden came face-to-face with the giant, carnivorous lizard on Rinca's palm-fringed beach, and fought it off by pelting it with rocks and pieces of wood, Pariman, a port official said Sunday.

"Luckily, they were able to chase it away," said Pariman, who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name.

The beasts have sharp, serrated teeth and often come out when they smell something new, including humans whom they've been known to kill, Pariman said.

The divers encountered treacherous currents after plunging from their wooden boat off Tatawa island on Thursday afternoon. They drifted 20 miles from their dive site before swimming to Rinca, their last chance to avoid being swept into the open ocean.

"We struggled against the current for several hours, but eventually stopped," Laurent Pinel, 31, of France, told The Sunday Times of London. The group tied their diving vests together to preserve energy, he said. Once on the island, they scraped mussels from the rocks for food, he said.

The divers ran into the Komodo dragon on Friday afternoon. The next day, rescuers aboard one of 30 boats searching the waters spotted them waving frantically on the shore and took them to Flores island for medical treatment.

The area where the diving trip took place is famous for its rich marine diversity, including sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. But it is also known for its treacherous and unpredictable seas.

Recommended only for experienced divers, it is in a place where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet, creating currents that converge and separate. Whirlpools and eddies can pull divers downwards.

"We're safe, but absolutely exhausted and dehydrated," Charlotte Allin, a 25-year-old British diver, was quoted by The Sunday Times of London as telling her parents from the hospital where the group was taken.

Komodo dragons, which can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh as much as 365 pounds, are only found in the wild on Rinca and Komodo island. There are believed to be 4,000 left in the world.

Thousands of tourists visit the area in eastern Indonesia each year to see the lizards in their natural habitat. They are normally shown around the arid and rocky island by guides who carry large, forked sticks to ward off the animals.



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