238 rescued as ferry sinks

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday 03rd Febuary 2012

OFFICIALS last night confirmed that 238 passengers have been rescued from waters off the coast of Finschhafen, Morobe province, where the mv Rabaul Queen sank early yesterday morning.
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 but will resume at first light this morning, Morobe acting provincial administrator Patillas Gamato said.
The vessel belongs to 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 as of 7pm, the 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 be carrying more than 300 passengers.
The boat 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 life rafts and were later taken aboard the large cargo vessels present in the area.