18 Aug 2009

Navy team to brief Tongan police on Ashika wreck findings

9:34 pm on 18 August 2009

The police and government in Tonga are awaiting the findings of a New Zealand navy crew before further decisions can be made about the sunken Princess Ashika.

The navy diving team identified the wreck by its name plate, using a remote operated vehicle this morning.

The police have revised the number of people missing presumed drowned DOWN, from 93 to 73, with 2 bodies found and 54 survivors.

The vessel is in an upright position at a depth of 110 metres, a depth from which recovery will be difficult.

The police commander in Tonga, Chris Kelley, says they hope to meet with the navy crew to go over what was found today.

The Tongan government says a decision on salvaging the vessel won't be made until it's met with the navy team.

Meanwhile, the Australian Government is to contribute 82,000 US dollars to the Tonga Red Cross to support survivors and victims' families of the Tongan ferry tragedy.

Australia's commitment will support the Red Cross's counselling services to survivors and victims' families, and be used to replenish their emergency supplies so they can respond effectively to any future emergencies.

Australia and New Zealand are currently working with the government of Tonga to help re-establish vital transport links between the islands.