Seven survivors found from missing Kiribati ferry

2018-01-28 22:08
This photo released by the New Zealand Defence Force shows a wooden dinghy carrying seven survivors from a missing ferry. (New Zealand Defence Force via AP)

This photo released by the New Zealand Defence Force shows a wooden dinghy carrying seven survivors from a missing ferry. (New Zealand Defence Force via AP)

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Wellington - Seven survivors from a ferry which went missing in the remote Pacific with 50 people on board were found drifting in a dinghy on Sunday near the island nation of Kiribati, the New Zealand Defence Force said.

A New Zealand Air Force Orion plane involved in the multinational search for the ferry MV Butiraoi dropped urgent supplies to the seven and a nearby fishing vessel has been diverted to rescue them.

The 5m dinghy is one of two believed to have been on board the Butiraoi, which was last heard from 10 days ago when it set out on an expected two-day voyage.

"The crew has dropped them aid supplies containing water, food and a radio and are currently trying to establish communication with them," NZDF Air Commodore Darryn Webb said.

"The Orion will continue to search the area, making every effort to locate any more survivors, while awaiting the rendezvous with the fishing vessel."

The fishing boat was expected to reach the survivors mid-afternoon.

The Butiraoi was last heard from on January 18 when it left Nonouti on a 250km trip to Betio, the largest township of Kiribati's capital city, South Tarawa.

Local authorities said the 17.5m wooden catamaran ran aground and underwent repairs to its propeller shaft before it left Nonouti.

New Zealand sent a military aircraft to conduct sweeps of the area after being called in to help late Friday by Fiji authorities who are co-ordinating the search.

Kiribati, a nation of 33 atolls and reefs with a total population of about 110 000, lies some 3 460km northeast of Fiji.

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