A Maldivian national reported missing earlier this month after leaving the island of Fares-Maathoda in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll in a dinghy has been discovered by a foreign vessel 900 miles from Maldivian waters.
The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed that Mohamed Falah, a 30 year-old man from Fares-Maathoda reported missing since May 9, had been found in “good condition” by the crew of a foreign vessel travelling to Malaysia.
The announcement of Falah’s rescue comes as authorities continue to advise members of the public to take precautions during sea travel – particularly over long distances – following “extreme weather” reported across the Maldives this month.
The MNDF has said searches are continuing for three other men thought lost at sea.
MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem said authorities had initially been informed of Falah’s rescue through his family, before contacting the foreign vessel that discovered him.
He added that the Maldivian national was expected to arrive in Malaysia on the vessel on Saturday (May 25).
Falah’s wife Fathimath Nazeefa told local newspaper Haveeru that she spoken to her husband today, explaining that he was in “good condition” and had been well treated by the crew who rescued him.
Local media reported that Falah went missing after travelling from Fares-Maathoda to a nearby island to collect gravel needed for construction purposes.
Following concerns about extreme weather patterns, the Maldives Coast Guard last week published an announcement requesting “all travellers to take necessary precautionary measures before setting on their journeys due to the severe weather with heavy rain and thunderstorms… particularly in the northern and southern regions of the Maldives.”
Colonel Raheem said today that the MNDF was continuing to work with the Maldives Department of Meteorology to try and keep the public better aware of weather patterns in order to prevent further cases of vessels drifting and becoming lost in local waters.
“We cannot say that the condition with the weather is now ok, but it is certainly better at times,” he said.
Raheem said that the coastguard therefore continued to stress that anyone attempting sea travel should take precautions before a voyage.
He said that the MNDF Coast Guard therefore encouraged members of the public to contact its toll-free number 191 to get more information on suitable times for their journey.
“We welcome everyone to call the toll-free number and check the weather before they depart. We also encourage them to contact us if they are leaving on a long distance journey and also notify us when they arrive,” Raheem said.
The MNDF has said operations were continuing to locate three other men reported lost at sea this month, despite previously halting aerial search and rescue operations.
Speaking Monday (May 20), Colonel Raheem said that search and rescue operations for four men lost at sea – which at the time had included Mohamed Falah – were being downgraded.
He said at the time that although aerial operations have ceased, the reduced search efforts were being continued. An Indian Navy aircraft was previously assisting the MNDF Kurangi Helicopter with aerial search and rescue operations, but had recently departed the Maldives.
The three men still missing include Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old surfer from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll, who was reported missing around 4:30pm on May 4 after entering the ocean with a surfboard and being swept away by the current.
Two fisherman, identified as 39 year-old Hassan Rasheed from Maamigili Island in Alif Dhaalu Atoll and 32 year-old Abdulla Waheed from Maavashu Island in Laamu Atoll were also reported missing the same day along with the fishing vessel “Azum”.
The two crewmen and the 40 foot light-green fishing boat disappeared after departing from Mulak Island in Meemu Atoll en route to Maavah Island in Laamu Atoll, Sun Online reported.
With searches ongoing for the three men, Colonel Raheem said today that the coastguard had not presently received any additional reports of members of the public being lost in Maldives waters.
“There have been small incidents, but these are not major concerns,” he said.
Hussein Waheed from the Maldives Department of Meteorology said extreme weather experienced over the last month was expected to improve over the next week.
“Right now we are still having rain, though we expect quite fine weather within the next three to four days,” he said.
Waheed added that adverse weather conditions this month been the result of the “early onset” of the traditionally wet South-West monsoon at the same time that a cyclone had formed in the Bay of Bengal area. The cyclone had since moved north-west towards India, the Maldives Department of Meteorology added.