Search continues for more than 100 missing in PNG ferry disaster

Posted: 02/03/2012 in all marine news

From Jakarta Globe –

Rescuers scoured the ocean for more than 100 people, many of them believed to be university students, still missing Friday after a ferry sank in the Pacific off Papua New Guinea.

So far, 238 survivors have been plucked to safety in a joint rescue operation conducted by PNG and neighboring Australia after the MV Rabaul Queen sank on Thursday morning.

Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the ship went down about nine nautical miles (16 kilometres) off the coast and the survivors reached the eastern town of Lae in the early hours of Friday morning.

“Five vessels, with a total of 238 survivors on board, proceeded to Lae last night, with the first vessel arriving shortly after 1:00am (1300 GMT Thursday),” AMSA said.

“The passengers are being transferred to Lae by the port’s tug, under the coordination of PNG authorities.”

It said three merchant vessels remained on the scene with the search resuming at daylight assisted by two Australian planes and two local helicopters.

PNG-based Rabaul Shipping, the owner of the vessel, said it lost contact with the MV Rabaul Queen while it was travelling between Kimbe and Lae in what was believed to be bad weather.

In a statement, it said there were 350 passengers and 12 crew onboard the Japanese-built vessel. The passengers were PNG locals, many students studying at Lae, the ship’s final destination and home to a large university.

The catastrophe comes just months after the town was rocked by PNG’s worst air disaster in October which killed 28 people — most of whom were believed to be parents travelling to graduation ceremonies.

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