Disaster coordinator upset with transport

National, Normal

The National, Wednesday August 08th, 2012

MILNE Bay Provincial Disaster and Emergency co-ordinator Eric Balaria is disappointed the transport department in the province is not carrying out its roles and responsibilities.
Balaria, who has been with disaster and emergency since 2006, said transport authorities needed to step up and ensure that boats were inspected properly and owners certified to operate their vessels.
“I’m disappointed that the boat owners still do not listen to strong wind warnings,” Balaria said.
“Transport authorities are not conducting proper inspections of small crafts like conducting harbour acceptance trials and sea acceptance trials.”
Balaria made the comments when updating a report on the five passengers who went missing on July 30 when workboat mv Oyapa they were travelling in developed engine problems and started drifting.
It eventually smashed against rocks in Trobriand Islands.
Balaria said 18 people, including four crew members, were on board.
Thirteen people were rescued from Amphlett Islands and brought to Esa’ala where they received medical attention yesterday morning and were now awaiting to return home.
“Because of strong winds, the captain advised the passengers to jump overboard and swim ashore and that’s when five of the passengers went missing,”  Balaria said.
He said his team could not carry out any search and rescue operations now because of adverse weather in the area.
“How soon can we start on the search and rescue operation depends on the resources that are available to us,” he said.
“The Kiriwina administration assisted with the repatriation but that’s all they can do to help because their resources are limited.
“The community are also reluctant to help so the next best option, which is my first priority, is to repatriate the survivors back to their place of origin.”
Balaria said the water police boat in Alotau was engaged to help in the search.     
The survivors were taken to Esa’ala on mv Genieve Maria, owned by former Kumul captain John Wagambie.
Balaria said that vessel too developed problems with its gear.
Balaria said they were still in the process of identifying how the missing people.