RNZAF Orion finds seven survivors from missing ferry

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion sent to look for a missing ferry off Kiribati with 50 people on board has found a dinghy with seven survivors.

CAPTIONSurvivors from a missing ferry in Kiribati are found in a dinghy – and a Royal New Zealand Air Force crewman prepares to drop emergency supplies to them. NZDF photo.

New Zealand Air Component Commander Air Commodore Darryn Webb said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion deployed to help a multinational search for the missing interisland ferry MV Butiraoi has found the 5m dinghy adrift in the Pacific Ocean with seven people on board within two hours of reaching the search area this morning.

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

“A fishing vessel contacted by the Orion to support the rescue effort was about 92km north-east of the dinghy’s location and is expected to reach the survivors around mid-afternoon.

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

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand has been coordinating the search since Saturday.

Butiraoi, an inter-island passenger ferry, left Nonouti Island on 18 January for a two-day, 250km trip to Betio, the largest township of Kiribati’s capital city, South Tarawa.

The 17m wooden catamaran failed to arrive on 20 January, sparking the search.

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Brian Hartigan

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