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VIDEO: PNG rescue officials confirm 238 plucked from sea after ferry sinking

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PNG Prime Minister-elect Peter O’Neill pledges inquiry into the ferry tragedy. Video: Euronews

Friday, February 3, 2012

Item: 7811

Ellen  Tiamu

PORT MORESBY (The National / Pacific Scoop / Pacific Media Watch): Papua New Guinean officials have confirmed that 238 passengers have been rescued from waters off the coast of Finschhafen, Morobe, province, where the ferry Rabaul Queen sank early yesterday, The National reports.

It is not known how many were missing from the 300-passenger coastal vessel which was Lae-bound from New Guinea Islands ports.

Search and rescue operations were abandoned when darkness fell last night but  resumed at first light today, Morobe acting provincial administrator Patillas Gamato said.Disaster ferry ... The Rabaul Queen before the sinking. Photo: Post-Courier

The disaster ship was owned by Rabaul-based firm Starships Ltd which would not provide the passenger list yesterday after requests by relatives of the passengers and officers from the provincial disaster office.

The company, through its lawyer, said it would issue a statement later.

The vessel sank in rough seas along the Vitiaz Strait at Pontification Point, just before Bonga, near Finschhafen about 6am. It was on its way to Lae.

Officials said that at 7pm last night, 238 passengers – some injured – were taken aboard four overseas cargo vessels which had gone to the area to assist.

Three helicopters and an Australian Defence Force aircraft, four overseas cargo vessels and smaller boats were used to rescue passengers.

The provincial disaster office had asked for assistance from the national government.

It is in contact with chief secretary and chairman of the national disaster office Manasupe Zurenuoc.

The disaster office in Madang and people in Wasu, Sialum, Siassi and Karkar islands have been asked to look out for survivors.

The Angau Memorial Hospital’s emergency department was on full alert last night to cater for the injured being brought ashore.

The provincial disaster office remained open all night.

It is feared that the ferry could have been carrying more than 300 passengers.

The ferry was travelling to Lae from Buka, Rabaul and Kimbe.

Rough seas, aided by strong winds, caused the one-engine ship to tilt and sink.

Passengers managed to scramble onto liferafts and were later taken aboard the large cargo vessels present in the area.

Source: The National

Earlier story

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