10 May 2011

Hopes fading for missing six off Kiribati coast

6:40 pm on 10 May 2011

Hopes are fading for six young people missing off the coast of Kiribati despite an extensive search.

A New Zealand Air Force Orion plane searched a grid of 44,000 square kilometres on Tuesday.

Two 19-year-old men and four girls aged eight to 12 set out on a three-metre canoe towing a smaller dingy on Friday to collect palm leaves for roofing.

The vessels are believed to have drifted out of a lagoon into the Pacific Ocean.

A search and rescue officer from the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Greg Johnston, says the extensive search has found no trace of the group.

Mr Johnston says sophisticated on-board radar equipment would have spotted something if it was there to be seen.

Local boats and police also carried out shoreline searches.