50 rescued from PNG ferry disaster
Sydney - Rescuers plucked about 50 survivors from waters off Papua New Guinea after a ferry carrying more than 300 people sunk, officials said on Thursday, leaving hundreds of passengers still unaccounted for.
The MV Rabaul Queen sank in the early hours of Thursday morning after encountering what operator Star Ships described as bad weather.
Australia's Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) detected a distress beacon at about 07:25 local time directed ships in the area to the scene.
"The master of one of the vessels, the Mol Summer, has been appointed on-scene co-ordinator and has reported that approximately 50 people have been rescued so far," AMSA said.
Four merchant ships were at the scene recovering survivors and an Australian search and rescue aircraft with life raft-dropping capabilities was also assisting, AMSA added.
"Further fixed-wing aviation search assets have also been tasked by AMSA, including an Australian Defence Force PC3 Orion aircraft and AMSA’s Darwin-based Dornier," the maritime agency said.
Star Ships said it lost contact with the MV Rabaul Queen at about 06:00 on Thursday while travelling between Kimbe and Lae in the east of the Pacific nation.