By ANTHONY KAYBING and TAPO TOVILU
THE search for the five missing Nissan Islanders from Bougainville who went missing two months ago was called off yesterday.
The five-two men and three women-left Buka on Oct 22 for Nissan Island when their banana boat probably drifted off course.
The search was called off after a Twin Otter plane chartered by the National Disaster Office was engaged to carry out a three-hour aerial search over Bougainville waters last Saturday in possible locations where the boat might have drifted.
Bougainville disaster office coordinator, Franklin Lessie said the search was called off because it was expensive to continue and that it was over the given time frame.
“This does not mean that we have totally abandoned all hope, we will follow any leads that may help us to locate them,” Mr Lessie said.
He also made a strong comment regarding sea safety regulations, saying that people travelling to the outer islands of Bougainville must take heed of standard sea travel regulations.
He revealed that the missing boat had left Buka on the day he had issued a strong winds warning to sea travellers.
He added that according to some reports, the boat’s skipper had failed to bring with him travel aids such as a Global Positioning System.
Mr Lessie said that carelessness and not taking heed of warnings could lead to disaster.
There were also rumours that the boat had been sighted and may have already reached Nissan Island, and that the people in it might have fled with K40,000 that was to be used to purchase bech de mer or sea cucumber.
To quell these rumours, the disaster office in Buka was investigating any leads that may help find those missing.