22 Jul 2009

15 confirmed dead following Kiribati's biggest disaster at sea

1:03 pm on 22 July 2009

The Police Maritime service in Kiribati says 15 people have been confirmed dead and 18 are still missing following last week's boat accident, the country's biggest reported disaster at sea.

The accident occurred at the beginning of last week when a double-hulled canoe set sail from Tarawa to Maiana about 60 kilometres to the south.

The Commander of the Police Maritime service in Kiribati, John Mote, says 55 people are believed to have been on board the vessel.

He says 22 people have survived the disaster.

A Radio Kiribati reporter Naare Rakamati said the group's intentions were to celebrate Independence Day on Manaia.

He says rough weather was a contributing factor that led to the capsizing of the canoe.

The New Zealand Airforce assisted in the search and helped spot debris.