Maritime NZ confirms around 80 passengers on missing Kiribati ferry

Maritime New Zealand has confirmed around 80 passengers, many of them teenagers, were aboard the ferry currently missing in the Pacific Ocean near Kiribati.

The 17 metre long catamaran MV Butiraoi was reported missing on January 20 after failing to arrive at its expected destination of Betio on time.

It had left the island of Nonouti two days earlier.

New Zealand is involved in the search and sent an NZDF Orion to help locate passengers after receiving a request for aerial assistance on Friday.

On Wednesday Maritime New Zealand told Newshub the ferry was carrying around 80 passengers and five crew, many of them young people headed back to school.

"We have just had confirmation from Kiribati that the ferry Butiraoi was carrying about 80 passengers plus crew (likely about five)," a spokesperson said.

Seven people were found in a dinghy as part of the search but there has so far been no other sign of the missing ferry.

"Many of the passengers were teenagers returning to Tarawa for the start of the school term."

According to the seven survivors the ferry disintegrated soon after setting off and other passengers scrambled into another dinghy and a life raft.

The search is currently focusing on finding the life raft, as authorities believe the second dinghy had likely broken apart and sunk.


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