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'Starving' islanders saved by sailor's chance trip

CNN Top Stories 11 May 2010

Residents of Kanton Island said they were malnourished and starving because a government supply ship hadn't been able to get there.

A British sailor delivering a yacht from Hawaii to Australia may have been a life-saver for 24 inhabitants of a remote Pacific island.

Yachtsman Alex Bond decided to make a stop Sunday at Kanton Island, part of the Phoenix Islands in the nation of Kiribati, during his trans-Pacific delivery voyage, according to a release from the British coastguard.

Greeting him on the island were 24 malnourished residents, including 10 children. They had been living on only fish and coconuts for two months because a Kiribati government supply ship that normally brings their food had not been able to get to the island, CNN affiliate ABC News in Australia reported.

The island, which is surrounded by several uninhabited islands, is about 2000 miles from and midway between Hawaii and Fiji in the Pacific.

Bond gave the islanders the few supplies he could spare from the yacht and used a satellite phone to contact the British coastguard station in Falmouth, England, near his home in Penryn, British authorities said. They contacted U.S. Coast Guard authorities in Honolulu who are arranging with Kiribati officials on Christmas Island to get emergency supplies to Kanton, according to the ABC report.

“So far, we have been given a shopping list of provisions such as cooking fat, rice, sugar and flour,” the British coastguard said. “We had no idea of the trouble they were in when we arrived. The adults were in a poor state and the children were suffering serious malnutrition,” Bond told The Falmouth Packet by phone.

“It is a beautiful island in the middle of nowhere, but their regular delivery of food had failed to show up and was at least five weeks away,” Bond said in the Packet report.

“We’re not leaving until I know they are okay. They are wonderful people,” he told the Packet.

Kanton, the only island in the Phoenix group with a permanent population, served as an air base for U.S. forces during World War II and later as a missile tracking station.

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