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5 survivors tell of plane crash, ocean ordeal

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SYDNEY (Reuters) -- Five survivors of a plane crash in the South Pacific told on Monday how they swam for six hours in pitch darkness, against strong currents, jellyfish and blinding rain, to reach shore.

The three Australians, a Swedish man and a Vanuatu man prayed as they tried to stay together in rough seas off the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila, said survivor Australian Neil Watts."I called out to people, 'If any of you have a faith in a God, I would like to pray with you.' So we actually had prayer in the water," said Watts, a Seventh Day Adventist Church pastor.

Seven people are still missing -- four Vanuatu men, two French nationals, including the pilot, and a British man, Port Vila police said. A search is continuing.

The Twin Otter aircraft crashed on Saturday night in a rain squall during a one-hour flight from the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo to the capital Port Vila on the island of Efate.

It was unclear what caused the crash.

Watts said the aircraft was being buffeted by the storm when it suddenly lost altitude and slammed into the ocean.

"Water rushed in through the pilot's cockpit," Watts told Australian radio from Port Vila.

Watts said his group of six people had only two life jackets and began swimming toward the distant lights of Port Vila.

Once the tide turned the group were carried toward a beach.

"We saw a beach, very faint in the darkness," Watts said. "We got onto the reef and again praise God the waves weren't crashing on us. We were able to just swim over the reef."