Ferry with 50 on board missing in central Pacific

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 27 2018 08:21 AM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A search was under way Saturday for a ferry with 50 people on board that has not been seen for more than a week in the tiny island nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific.

New Zealand search officials, who have been called in to assist Fijian authorities, said the inter-island ferry MV Butiraoi was reported missing late Friday.

The 17.5 meter wooden catamaran left from Nonouti Island for Betio Tarawa in the Kiribati Islands on January 18.

The 260-kilometer voyage was expected to take two days.

"We understand the vessel underwent repairs to its propeller shaft just before it departed," New Zealand Rescue Co-Ordination Centre officer John Ashby said.

"This may have contributed to problems navigating the journey.

"The weather in that part of the Pacific is currently moderate with some swells."

A New Zealand Air Force Orion plane has been dispatched to conduct an aerial search of the route the vessel was scheduled to take.

Kiribati a nation of 33 atolls and reefs with a total population of about 110,000, lies some 3,460 kilometers (2,150 miles) north east of Fiji.

© Agence France-Presse