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A suspected asylum-seeker tried to sail from Papua New Guinea to Australia on a raft

Staff Reporter 1/26/2013 | |

A cyclone had passed over the area shortly before the mystery man, who is believed to be Polish and in his 20s, attempted to navigate his way across the shark infested waters of the Torres Strait on his hastily assembled raft.
It is thought he may have been planning to claim asylum when he reached his destination, but he only made it as far as Saibai Island, a few miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea, where he was eventually discovered in a mangrove swamp. 
Northern Queensland, Australia
Papua New Guinea

Ambitious: The man had been planning to sail from Papua New Guinea, left, to northern Australia, right, on a raft made from twigs and sticks tied together with string
Safety experts said he was lucky to be alive.
The man, believed to be named Vazlavand, is understood to have set off from Sigabadura village in Papua New Guinea at around 3am on Thursday. He reached Saibai around 11 hours later.
Diversion: The man had hoped to reach Australia when he set out from Sigabadura, but only made it as far as Saibai Island
Diversion: The man had hoped to reach Australia when he set out from Sigabadura, but only made it as far as Saibai Island
Residents on the island, which lies in Australian territorial waters, caught sight of the man - believed to be named Vazlavand - and alerted authorities, prompting a search for the sailor.
Australian authorities sent out a helicopter and customs ship but were unable to locate Vazlavand, who was eventually found slumped in the mangrove swamp by local police on Saibai.
It is currently monsoon season in northern Australia, and Cyclone Oswald, which is still causing heavy rainfall in Queensland, had recently passed over Mr Vazlavand's intended route.
'It's the first time I've heard of someone trying to cross the Torres Strait in the middle of a cyclone,' said Jo Meehan, a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
She told Agence France-Presse navigation in the area was 'challenging' even for normal vessels, and that Mr Vazlavand was lucky to have made it safely as far as he did. 
'It's not something we'd recommend,' she told Agence France-Presse.



'It's quite treacherous with reefs and rocks, and he did it in winds and high seas. He's very lucky to have made it,' she added.
Mr Vazlavand is now in a detention centre on Thursday Island according to The Independent, where he will be interviewed by Australian immigration authorities.
The man, who had no possessions on board his raft, appears to be in good health.
Saibai Island: The man washed ashore on the island a few miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea where he was eventually discovered in a mangrove swamp
Saibai Island: The man washed ashore on the island a few miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea where he was eventually discovered in a mangrove swamp by local police

Source: Mail Online

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