8 Feb 2013

Kiribati searchers seek Australian help

1:24 pm on 8 February 2013

A Kiribati fishing expedition has been lost at sea for four days, prompting the Kiribati Government to seek help from Australia.

The fishing crew left the capital of Tarawa Atoll on Monday morning, heading south towards Maiana atoll.

They were expected back by sunset but have not been seen since.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand provided initial search area determinations, but could not commit the Air Force Orion as it is currently deployed to Solomon Islands after Wednesday's tsunami that devastated coastal villages.

Kiribati has sent a request to Australia for assistance, after the United States Coast Guard in Honolulu was also unable to help.

Fishing 'drifters' are common in Micronesia, with many small motored vessels leaving without spare fuel, oars, and other supplies.

The Kiribati Government is looking to change maritime laws to enforce safety standards on small boats and avoid costly search and rescue operations.