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1.12.10

3 lost boysTOKELAU'S three lost boys have been reunited with family in Samoa, admitting to their uncle that they were drinking when they hatched their plan to go sailing.

Samu Pelesa, Filo Filo, both 15, and Etueni Nasaui, 14, said they were drinking vodka and decided they would sail form their village on Atafu atoll to the neighbouring Nukunonu in the early hours of October 5.

But the boat ran out of petrol and began to drift towards Fiji and a remote corner of the Pacific Ocean. The boys, all cousins, were not found until 50 days later, when they were spotted by a deep-sea fishing trawler.

They had survived by drinking rainwater, sipping seawater when the rain stopped, and eating a seagull.

Today, the teenagers and their uncle Kuresa Nasau, Tokekau's Ulu or head, fronted a small press conference in Apia after being reunited at a local hotel.

Etueni said the boys took some coconuts, a bottle of vodka, and water with them on the boat.

"We were drunk, we were drinking," Etueni said about the reason for their journey.

Filo said: "We went to look for more, cause we had finished our bottle."

Etueni continued: "Then we planned it".

The boys said they knew they would be rescued because they prayed every day. The spent their days sleeping, swimming, talking, especially about food, and missing home.

They were returned to dry land last Friday. after being transferred from the fishing trawler San Nikanu to the Fiji Navy and put in the care of New Zealand consular staff in Suva.

After receiving medical treatment for dehydration, malnourishment and severe sunburn, the boarded a plane to Apia last night. They are now staying at the Tokelau official residencies and will receive on-going trauma counselling.

They will board a boat to Tokelau, which does not have an airport, when the next vessel leaves on December 16.

Mr Nasau said he would accompany the teenagers to Tokelau's other two atolls on the way home to Atafu, to thank those villagers who prayed for the boys when they were lost at sea.

"We celebrate the fact that they are alive and well," Mr Nasau said.

"Today the situation is that this will be a piece of history and we certainly will learn from it and continue to celebrate, yet it is something we do not wish to encourage."

Briefly recounting their ordeal, Etueni said the boys were worried about their family members during their time on the boat, and believed one of them could have a heart attack.

He said he waved at a New Zealand Search and Rescue plane they saw during the early days of their voyage, but that they were not seen. They once saw a boat on the horizon but it was too far away to notice them.

Etueni said the boys only believed they were lost at sea about two weeks into their journey.

When they get home, Etueni said they will celebrate with their families: "We're just gonna get there and celebrate, we're gonna have a party when we get there."

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