19 Jun 2002

Fiji search for missing villagers intensifies

2:42 pm on 19 June 2002

Authorities in Fiji have intensified a search for 11 villagers missing at sea since Monday morning.

Radio FM 96 reports that two fixed-wing aircraft, a helicopter and a navy vessel as well as smaller boats have joined the search which has extended north towards Vanua Levu.

The seven men and four men missing were from a party of 13 travelling between Taveuni and Koro islands when their open punt capsized in rough seas and high winds.

Two others managed to swim ashore at Taveuni and raise the alarm.

The search is hampered by winds of 30 to 35 knots and very rough seas.

Meanwhile, another report says cargo believed to be from the capsized boat has been washed ashore in Taveuni.