Seven from missing Kiribati ferry found

Dinghy was spotted in an area of the central Pacific where a New Zealand military aircraft is searching for the MV Butiraoi

Wellington, New Zealand: Seven people were found drifting in a dinghy on Sunday near the remote Pacific island nation of Kiribati where a ferry with 50 people on board went missing 10 days ago.


The dinghy was spotted in an area of the central Pacific where a New Zealand military aircraft is searching for the MV Butiraoi.

According to New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre officer, John Ashby, the dinghy was believed to be one of two carried on the Butiraoi.

“The group seem very relieved to have been found when the NZ [New Zealand] Air Force Orion dropped supplies, including water and a radio, to them,” Ashby said in a statement.

A fishing vessel was diverted to pick up the seven while the aerial search continued for more survivors.

The New Zealand Defence Force said on Sunday the fishing vessel was 92 kilometres northeast of the dinghy’s location and expected to reach the survivors by mid-afternoon.

The Butiraoi was last heard from on January 18 when it set out on an expected two-day voyage from the island of Nonouti to Betio Tarawa.

The 17.5-metre wooden catamaran had undergone repairs to its propeller shaft before departure and rescue officials believe this may have contributed to navigation problems.

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 coordinating the search.

Ashby said the sea conditions are “moderate to rough”.

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

It is listed as one of the nations most at risk from rising sea levels.

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