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21 Sep, 2007 14:37

Two Russian rafters survive 3 weeks without food in China

In a miraculous rescue, two of six Russian rafters that went missing earlier this month have been found alive. Andrey Pautov was found just hours after his team-mate, Aleksandr Zverev. The search for one more person continues, and the three others are con

Aleksandr Zverev was found accidentally by a group taking a member of the rescue team who had fallen ill back to base.

“Today, the weather gave us a chance. We began to drop our rescuers to the search area and during the flight one of our monitors spotted one of the missing men, who is now taken to hospital,” Andrey Legoshin, the Head of Russian team of rescuers, commented.

God helped me – I was thrown onto the stones. The others were drowning, dying before my eyes. I sat on the bank trying to instruct them, to help them, but I was unable to do anything. The first three days I decided I’d go downstream. I realised though that it was impossible. So I lived in that cave for 20 days. When I heard the sound of helicopters, I would go up the rocks.

Aleksandr Zverev

Chinese and Russian rescuers spotted the survivor on the banks of the upper reaches of the Yurungkax River at about 10:30 local time on Friday morning. Aleksandr Zverev, whose body was covered with mud and dust, was immediately whisked off to the local hospital.

“Although Aleksandr Zverev walked out of the rescue helicopter unassisted, he looked quite exhausted and was immediately hospitalised,” Andrey Kirillov, ITAR-TASS correspondent, said.    

Zverev said he survived with basically no food in the wilderness. The other survivor is Andrey Pautov from Moscow, and his condition is also said to be satisfactory.

“Russian and Chinese rescuers managed to find another Russian sportsman alive. It is Andrey Pautov from Moscow. His condition is estimated as satisfactory. He is now with the rescuers’ team near the raft. A doctor with all the necessary medicines and clothing is among them. China’s Defence Ministry will send a helicopter on Saturday morning which will take Andrey Pautov to hospital. The fate of one more missing man is unknown, the search for him continues,” commented Igor Shmalts, Emergencies Ministry officer.

In mid-August the Russian adventurers, accompanied by two local guides, departed from Pulu village to the beginning of their downstream trip, the guides returned to the village planning to meet them again in the early days of September.

But that was the last that was seen or heard from the group of six men ranging in age from 25 to 47.

Local authorities mobilised 1,700 army servicemen, policemen and local residents for the search, then last week a Russian cargo plane carrying 40 Russian search and rescue members arrived to join the hunt.

But their arrival was greeted with despair as bodies of three of the men were tragically discovered. Two were found under their canoes.

China, with its vast deserts, mountains and forests, is attracting growing numbers of adventure tourists looking for unusual holiday destinations that have yet to be developed.  

But its raw tourism offering is a double-edged sword.

In this case the fate of the two still missing Russians remains unknown and the search for them continues.