29 Jan 2018

Search continues for missing Kiribati ferry

6:46 am on 29 January 2018

The search for a Kiribati ferry that disappeared with 50 people on board is set to resume this morning.

The ferry, the MV Butiraoi, left Nonouti Island on 18 January bound for the capital, South Tarawa, on what supposed to be a two day trip.

However, it went missing for nearly a week before New Zealand rescue authorities were alerted by the Kiribati Government.

A New Zealand Air Force Orion plane on Sunday found a dinghy with seven survivors, including an unconscious baby, on board.

"The crew dropped them aid supplies containing water, food and a radio," said Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Air Component Commander.

The survivors used the radio to tell rescuers that they had managed to get off the ferry as it capsized.

A fishing boat was diverted to rescue the survivors and will be on standby to help as the search continued on Monday.

The operations manager at the Rescue Coordination Centre in Wellington, Paul Craven, said the Air Force would expand its search from where the dinghy was found on Monday.

Meanwhile, questions were mounting as to why it took so long for the ferry to be reported missing, when it was due to arrive in South Tarawa on January 20.

It then took seven days before New Zealand officials were alerted that the ferry was missing.

A local Kiribati plane is understood to have tried an initial search, but that aircraft lacked any kind of radar equipment.