updated 1/11/2005 3:12:36 AM ET 2005-01-11T08:12:36

A man who drifted on the Indian Ocean for two weeks lived on coconuts that he pried open with his teeth while floating on pieces of wood, then a broken boat, and finally a raft carrying a lifesaving treasure: bottled water.

And all that time Ari Afrizal prayed.

His prayers were answered when a container ship spotted him on Sunday, hauled the parched man aboard and brought him to Malaysia late Monday.

Ari, 21, was working on a construction site in the Indonesian province of Aceh on Dec. 26 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the resulting tsunami swept him and his friends out to sea.

“The earthquake lasted about 15 minutes,” Ari told reporters late Monday after the ship docked at Port Klang near the capital Kuala Lumpur. “Then the waves came, big, big waves that slammed down hard on us.”

Ari, who appeared fit despite the ordeal, said he and his co-workers were swept out to sea and clung onto passing pieces of wood.

“I recall seeing four of my friends hanging onto wood but we drifted away from each other as the waves rolled us out further into the sea,” Ari said.

Ari said he saw many bodies and debris floating around him.

“I prayed and prayed. I told God I don’t want to die ... I worried about my elderly parents and asked for a chance to take care of them,” he said. “As if my prayers were answered, a broken (boat) floated toward me a few days later.”

On the fifth day, he saw a huge fishing raft and swam out to it, thinking he would be rescued. But the raft was unmanned. But it contained some bottles of fresh water. He said he also ate coconuts that he found floating in the sea, husking the soft ones with his teeth.

Missed opportunities
He said many ships passed by without noticing him until the ship Al Yamamah came along. The captain, John Kennedy of New Zealand, said he did not expect to find any survivors when his crew spotted the raft. The crew sounded a whistle anyway.

“To our surprise, a frail-looking man emerged,” Kennedy said. He said Ari looked fine except for parched lips and even managed to board the ship without help.

As he was taken to a hospital for a checkup, Ari could only think of his parents.

“I pray that my family in Aceh is also as lucky as me and survived the disaster.”

Ari is the third Indonesian tsunami survivor rescued from the sea and brought to Malaysia.

A Malaysian tuna ship on Dec. 30 rescued a pregnant woman who held on to a floating sago palm tree for five days. She was sunburned and had been bitten by fish, but her baby was safe.

The second miracle survivor was a man from Aceh who drifted for eight days before being spotted by a Japanese-owned cargo ship. He clung to floating planks with scores of other people — all of whom were eventually swallowed by the sea. Malaysian authorities have allowed him to stay and work in Malaysia after he said the tragedy left him with nothing in his hometown.

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