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Missing persons found in the waters of Kiribati after 31 days ordeal

The Bougainville Disaster & Emergency Directorate under the Department of Community Government & District Affairs, in conjunction with the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) and other relevant authorities, is pleased to advice of the timely rescue of survivors from a 23-footer banana boat that went missing for 31 days at sea.

On Monday, 26th February, a Chinese fishing vessel, named the Lometo discovered the missing boat in the waters of Kiribati. The boat, which had departed Lihir Island bound for Buka, had run out of fuel, causing it to drift for over a month. The survivors, including a nine-year-old boy, were found aboard the boat and have since been rescued.

The journey of the missing boat began on Saturday, 27th January, when it departed Lihir Island. After dropping off a passenger at Anir Island en route to Buka, the boat failed to reach its destination, prompting concern from the owner, Mr. Bartholomew Sareke of Lontis village in Haku Constituency of Buka. Mr. Sareke promptly reported the incident to the Bougainville Disaster Office & Emergency Directorate, which initiated search efforts in collaboration with PNG Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre.

According to Mr Sareke, he was reliably informed by the passenger dropped off at Anir that the boat had eight passengers on board when it left the Island for Buka. Out of the eight passengers that travelled out from Anir Island, Nason Koesana (48), Stanis Logan (41), Bensley Kaskas (35), Max Ben (9), Raynard Raiasok (25) and Liddy Birigin Kenehata (25) have been rescued, two are said to be missing.

Based on the report that was given to NMSA and MRCC, a broadcast was done to all shipping vessels and ports, thus the Lometa, a ship registered to the Marshall Islands and operated by Shanghai Kai Chuang Marine International Co. Ltd, and its crew spotted and rescued the boat with the six survivors.

The survivors are currently on board the vessel traveling to Kiribati and the National Department of Foreign Affairs have been informed to assist with their repatriation to Port Moresby and back to Bougainville.

The ABG Department of Community Government will be working closely with the National Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure their travel back to the country.

Meanwhile, Secretary of the Department Mrs Belinda Gara-Lanbong relayed her sympathies to the immediate families of the victims and has called on the relatives of the eight persons of the missing boat to work with the government on the ground and police to ensure the safe return of the survivors and an investigation can be carried out to ascertain the lives lost out at sea.

She further called on boat owners and traveling public to ensure to adhere to weather warnings when intending to travel out on sea.

Director for Disaster and Emergency Directorate of Community Government John Watmelik shared similar sentiments and added that the current situation highlighted the need for stricter enforcement of safety measures and better communication between boat operators and relevant authorities. 


Photo credit: FV LOMETO 

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