At least 80 on sunken Pacific ferry: officials

A multinational rescue operation is scouring vast swathes of ocean for survivors, but only seven people have been found alive so far and hopes are fading of locating any more. Initial estimates of how many people were on the MV Butiraoi when it went missing ranged from 35 to more than 100, but officials said the numbers were slowly becoming clearer. “Kiribati authorities have confirmed that about 80 passengers plus crew of likely about five were on the ferry,” Rescue Coordination Centre NZ said in a statement. The centre said four aircraft from New Zealand, Australia and the US had helped conduct sweeps in the area where the ferry went missing. It said the search was concentrating on finding a life raft that was launched from the sinking ferry. “The life raft is designed for 25 people but more can be squeezed in uncomfortably,” it added. Former Kiribati prime minister Ieremia Tabai, who represents the island of Nonouti from where the ferry departed on January 18, slammed the government’s handling of the disaster. Tabai said his grief-stricken constituents on the island of 2,000 wanted to know why it took eight days to raise the alarm and how the unseaworthy vessel was allowed to sail in the first place. “This tragedy demands an independent commission of inquiry,” he told Radio New Zealand. “We need to know why it happened and (who is) responsible.” The MV Butiraoi, 17.5-metre wooden catamaran, set off on a planned two-day voyage to Betio, the largest township… [Read full story]


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