Nearly 250 of 362 saved from Papua New Guinea ship

Posted: 02/03/2012 in all marine news

Jakarta Globe –

Rescuers battling big waves and strong winds have pulled nearly 250 people from the sea off Papua New Guinea’s east coast after a ferry sank.

More than 110 people remained missing Friday. Crews in ships, planes and helicopters continued to scour the warm seas.

Papua New Guinea’s National Maritime Safety Authority rescue coordinator Capt. Nurur Rahman said he had not given up hope of finding more survivors, though the swell and winds were rising and some victims may have been trapped inside the sunken ferry.

“I do not presume them to be dead yet,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Owners of MV Rabaul Queen, Papua New Guinea-based Rabaul Shipping Company, said Friday there had been 350 passengers and 12 crew aboard the 22-year-old Japanese-built ferry when it went down Thursday morning while traveling from Kimbe on the island of New Britain to the coastal city of Lae on the main island.

A police official said most of those aboard were students.

“We are stunned and utterly devastated by what has happened,” managing director Peter Sharp said in a statement.

The company said the cause of the disaster remained unclear, but National Weather Service chief Sam Maiha told Papua New Guinea’s Post-Courier newspaper that shipping agencies had been warned to keep ships moored this week because of strong winds. An official at the scene told the newspaper that the ferry capsized in rough seas and sank four hours later.

By nightfall Thursday, 246 survivors had been rescued by merchant ships battling 5-meter swells and 75 kph winds at the disaster scene 80 kilometers east of Lae and 16 kilometers from shore, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

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