Over 120 feared killed in PNG ship tragedy

Last Updated: Friday, February 3, 2012 - 21:01

Melbourne: More than 120 people are feared
dead after a ship with over 350 on board sank off Papua New
Guinea`s north coast, even as ships and helicopters are
continuing to search for missing people, officials said on Friday.

About 350 Papua New Guineans were on board the Rabaul
Queen when it went down in the Solomon Sea about last morning,
according to local media reports here.

The ship was headed for the PNG north-coast town of Lae
from the West New Britain town of Kimbe.

Australian rescuers saved 238 passengers, most of them
students and trainee teachers, from drowning after the ferry
sank, but fears remained for more than 120 were still missing.

"Over 200 people had been rescued - most of them from the
water," Rescue co-ordinator Captain Nurur Rahman said, adding
that several passengers were still unaccounted for.

The search for the missing passengers - mostly university
students - resumed at daylight. Officials said there were
fears people had been trapped in the ferry.

Capt Rahman said the rescuers are scouring the area for
more survivors. He said it was too early to say why the ferry
went down, refusing to speculate on whether the ship was
overloaded.

Most of the survivors who have returned to Lae were taken
to the local hospital.

"None of them had sustained any real injuries. They were
pretty cold and miserable," Lae Chamber of Commerce president
Alan McLay told Australian media.

Meanwhile, Ferry operator Rabaul Shipping said that there
were 350 passengers and 12 crew onboard.

Relatives of the passengers, angered by a lack of
information, threw rocks at the company`s office in Kimbe on
Thursday, Australian media reported. Local police said it had
to move the staff to an undisclosed location.

PTI



First Published: Friday, February 3, 2012 - 08:39

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