The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has located seven survivors from a ferry that went missing in the waters off Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean with 50 people on-board.
The ferry, MV Butiraoi, was originally reported missing a week ago.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft was deployed as part of the search operation and was able to locate the survivors as they were drifting on a 5m dinghy in the Pacific Ocean.
NZDF Air Component Commander Darryn Webb said: “The crew has dropped them aid supplies containing water, food and a radio and are currently trying to establish communication with them.”
Webb stated that the Orion aircraft has contacted a fishing vessel to assist in picking up the survivors from the dinghy.
Webb further added: “The Orion will continue to search the area, making every effort to locate any more survivors, while awaiting the rendezvous with the fishing vessel.”
The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) is currently coordinating the search operation to rescue the Butiraoi vessel.
The inter-island passenger ferry departed Nonouti Island in Kiribati on 18 January for a two-day trip to Betio, a town in Kiribati.
However, the 17m-long wooden catamaran did not reach its destination as scheduled.
Local authorities noted that the boat ran had aground and underwent a series of repairs to its propeller shaft before leaving Nonouti Island.
MV Butiraoi is equipped with a high-frequency radio, though it is currently unclear whether the ferry has enough fuel and emergency supplies on-board.
Aircraft from Australia and the US Coast Guard are also expected to join the search for the missing MV Butiraoi.