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Japanese diver found dead off Bali after five rescued

The body of a Japanese scuba diver was found floating near a beach on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Tuesday, a day after the astonishing rescue of five others in the group.

DENPASAR: The body of a Japanese scuba diver was found floating near a beach on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Tuesday, a day after the astonishing rescue of five others in the group.

The diver, almost unrecognisable after days in the water, was one of seven women who disappeared on Friday after setting out on a diving expedition from Nusa Lembongan, just east of Bali.

As days passed, hopes faded that any of the women would be found alive in an area known for its stunning underwater beauty but also for its strong and unpredictable currents.

Fishermen found 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 news was greeted with delight in Japan. Hopes that the remaining two divers were also alive rose earlier on Tuesday after villagers said they thought they had spotted them in the area where the others were rescued.

But searches of the area turned up nothing and officials revealed in the evening that members of the public had found the body floating near Serangan beach, a popular surfing spot in south Bali.

"We are convinced that the body belongs to one of the two missing Japanese divers, based on the diver's characteristics," Bali search and rescue chief Didi Hamzar told AFP.

"It is difficult to recognise the victim and she has lost some hair," he said, adding she was still wearing a wetsuit and flippers.

He said the body had been taken to a hospital in the Balinese capital Denpasar for an autopsy. He did not have any news on the seventh diver.

Earlier in the day, a helicopter and rescue boats had scoured the area around Manta Point, off Nusa Penida island, where the other divers were rescued. Penida is next to Nusa Lembongan.

Police had said they believed the remaining two divers were in the area and alive after villagers reported seeing two people on a coral reef sending distress signals by shining lights late Monday.

The five women who have been rescued are all in hospital in Bali. They have 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."

A doctor at the Denpasar hospital, where the other four women are being treated, said they had survived by drinking rainwater. Heavy downpours are common at this time of year.

"For three days they drink rain, only drink, no food," said doctor A.A. Ngurah Jaya Kusuma. "Their medical condition is good."

An AFP reporter at the hospital saw one of the women walking down a corridor with burns on her face and a drip in one of her arms.

The women at first floated together in a group and were swept along by bad weather, strong currents and high waves, rescue official Wayan Suyatna told local radio.

They became separated when some of the group attempted to swim towards a passing tugboat, he added.

The news that the five had been rescued was splashed across the front page of major newspapers in Japan, many carrying images of one rescued woman lying on a stretcher. TV news also supplied regular coverage of the dramatic scene.

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