Hopes linger as over 100 still missing after Papua New Guinea ferry sinking | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 03.02.2012
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Hopes linger as over 100 still missing after Papua New Guinea ferry sinking

Search and rescue efforts have continued into Friday as over 110 people remained missing a day after a ferry sank off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Survivors of a ferry disaster in Papua New Guinea

Over 250 have been rescued

Although there were no reports of survivors or bodies found on Friday, rescue crews refused to give up hope.

Captain Nurur Rahman, the rescue coordinator for Papua New Guinea's Maritime Safety Authority, said there was a chance those missing could still be found alive.

Three merchant vessels, two Australian planes and two local helicopters were still scouring swathes of ocean after the MV Rabaul Queen sank off the South Pacific nation's northeastern coast on Thursday.

Some 250 survivors were rescued on the day of the accident, most of whom had been wearing life jackets. Five ships delivered those rescued to Lae, the second largest city in the South Pacific country.

Relatives of the passengers

Relatives of passengers on the ferry are angry about the lack of information

"None of them sustained any real injuries. They were pretty cold and miserable," said Lae Chamber of Commerce President Alan McLay.

Severe weather

One survivor, Alice Kakamara, described the sea conditions on the day of the accident as "really rough, windy, (and with) big waves."

"The boat tilted once, then twice, then three times and it went over," she recalled.

She said her young nephew had convinced her to hold on and not give up hope. Although the pair eventually took different lifeboats, she had since heard that the 11-year-old was safe and had been unharmed.

Australian high commissioner to the island nation, Ian Kemish, said: "It's a fair bet that the very severe weather that's being experienced in some parts of Papua New Guinea played a role in the sinking."

Papua New GuineaPrime Minister Peter O'Neill said the cause of the accident remained unknown but admitted that safety regulations in the shipping industry were lax.

A map of Papua New Guinea and Australia

The accident occured off PNG's northeast coast

Overcrowded boat

According to the Rabaul Shipping Company, which owns the Japanese-made 22-year-old ferry, there were at least 350 passengers aboard, mostly students, and 12 crew members. However, the company was licensed to carry only 310 passengers.

People with relatives on board the boat were angered by the lack of information released by the company in the eastern city of Kimbe. Reports said that local staff had to be evacuated by police to a secret location to escape the angry crowds.

"We are stunned and utterly devastated by what has happened," said Rabaul managing director Peter Sharp in a statement. "We acknowledge that this has caused tremendous suffering. Our condolences go to the loved one of those affected."

act/dfm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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