SEMAWANG, Indonesia: Indonesian authorities scoured waters off Bali on Tuesday for two Japanese scuba divers missing for four days, as friends and colleagues heartened by the astonishing rescue of five others in the group expressed hope they will be found.
A huge search swung into action on Friday when the group of female divers disappeared after setting out on a diving expedition from Nusa Lembongan, just east of the resort island of Bali.
As days passed hopes faded that any of the women, all experienced divers, would be found alive in an area known for its stunning underwater beauty but also strong, unpredictable currents.
But fishermen spotted five of the women clinging to a coral reef in rough waters on Monday, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from where they set off, and rescuers plucked them to safety in a helicopter and lifeboat.
The women, who are all in hospital on Bali, suffered dehydration and sunburn but none are in a serious condition, doctors said.
"We caused many people so much worry over this case," one of the divers, Saori Furukawa, wrote in a note handed to Japanese media from her hospital bed.
"I would like to take a rest for a while, hoping the remaining two are alive."
Kazuo Shibata, consul general at the Japanese consulate in Bali, told Japanese media he had visited four of the divers and that they were fine.
"They were moved to tears when I told them, 'It's so good you were rescued'," he said.
The news was splashed across the front page of major newspapers in Japan, many carrying images of one rescued woman lying on a stretcher, while TV news also supplied regular coverage of the dramatic scene.
Rescuers stepped up their efforts to find the remaining two divers on Tuesday, with a helicopter and two boats dispatched to search the Manta Point area, off Nusa Penida island, where the other divers were found.
Nusa Penida lies next to Nusa Lembongan.
"We feel very encouraged after five were found alive yesterday," said search and rescue agency official Amtarama, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, adding that weather conditions were good.
In Japan, friends and colleagues of the two still missing said they were clinging to the belief they were alive.
"I believe the two still missing are floating somewhere near the spot where the five were discovered," said diving instructor Toru Furuyama, 40, who knows one of the pair.
Another friend Hideki Terayama, an underwater photographer who helped with an effort to raise funds to search for the divers, wrote on his Facebook page: "Let's pray that the other two will be found."
Furuyama said it was likely the rescued divers had managed to survive by floating in a group.
"That means they can cheer each other up and support each other, mentally and physically," he said.
He also said they may have benefited from the weather: "It's their rainy season there, so it's relatively easy to harvest rainwater while floating on the sea." -AFP