Two men from Myanmar told rescuers they survived almost a month floating in a large icebox in waters off northern Australia after their fishing boat sank, authorities said Tuesday.
The two men, aged in their twenties, were spotted in the icebox on Saturday by a routine aerial border patrol off Cape York, Australia's northernmost tip, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) reported.
The men said they had been on a 12-metre (40-foot) Thai fishing boat when it sank in rough seas two days before Christmas and that 18 other crew members were last seen in open seas without life jackets.
Emergency rescue helicopter pilot Terry Gadenne told reporters the men were dehydrated and exhausted when they were pulled from the ocean.
"When we winched down the rescue crewman into the water, the guy in the esky (ice box) leapt out ... he was pretty keen to get away from the ocean," Gadenne said.
"When they got up (into the helicopter) they skolled (drank) two litres of water each within seconds."
The men had "some boils or damage of some sort to their legs and that was given first aid and we flew straight to the hospital from there," he said.
The two men remain in hospital at Thursday Island in far-north Queensland.
AMSA spokeswoman Tracey Jiggins said it was unlikely there were other survivors.
"With the time that has gone by it would be unlikely that there would be any survivors from the vessel if they were in water with no floatation devices," she told public radio.
"We understand the vessel was boarded in Thailand and that the crew onboard were Thai and Burmese (from Myanmar) and we consequently notified all the relevant Australian authorities that will notify the government of those two countries," she said.
Immigration and other authorities were investigating the case, Jiggins said.
"Both of them have been very adamant about their story so we can only take their story on face value and follow through on the information they have provided to us," she said.
There was no indication the men were part of a group of hundreds of migrants from Myanmar's Muslim minority Rohingya believed to have been set adrift in Thailand recently, some of whom have been rescued around India and Indonesia.