Volunteers Who Traveled To Remote Island To Clean Coral Reef Were Stranded After Coronavirus Pandemic Struck

A picture of a remote island.
Jay Park / Pixabay

A group of volunteers that traveled to a remote island near Myanmar have been trapped there for weeks after the restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have prevented their ride from returning to pick them up.

The story of the marooned bunch was shared by the Mirror this weekend, noting that the group traveled to the desolate island on March 19 with plans to stay there for a month to clean and protect a vulnerable coral reef. But the group of five has instead been trapped there after both nearby countries, Myanmar and Thailand, went into lockdown and prevented the boat that was supposed to pick them up from traveling there.

The report noted that a rescue had been planned on May 5, but it had to be canceled as Thailand extended its nationwide lockdown. Natalie Poole, a 35-year-old British woman who is part of the volunteer group, told the newspaper that it has been difficult not knowing how long they will be there before help comes.

“It’s kind of up and down, we’re a very small group of people and we’re living in a very confined, close situation,” she said. “In the back of our minds is obviously families back home and stuff, which adds to the tension a little bit. We’re just trying to take things day by day.”

It is not clear when help may be able to arrive. As U.S. News reported, Thailand’s civil aviation authority on Saturday extended a ban on international flights until the end of June. The report noted that Thailand has seen a total of 3,025 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 56 deaths.

Poole said that the group has made a camp on the island, using bamboo and bits of plastic that washed up on shore, with a few food deliveries of staples like rice and pasta to help keep them alive. But Poole said they don’t know when the next delivery will come, so they’re carefully rationing food while also planting vegetables to round out their diet.

Though they have been able to survive thus far, the rainy season is coming and Poole said she hopes a boat will arrive soon to rescue them.

Poole added that there have been some positives to becoming castaways, including being able to remain in quarantine like people around the world while still completing their mission to protect the coral reef.

“We are essentially in quarantine here, but with no cost and a positive purpose. It makes sense to stay,” she shared.