8 Mar 2011

PNG rescue of capsized passenger vessel

4:20 pm on 8 March 2011

A provincial disaster coordinator in Papua New Guinea says 49 passengers who clung to the hull of their capsized boat for almost 24 hours, feared for their lives.

The MV Goodenough, which belongs to the local district government, departed from Kiriwina Island on Saturday but capsized that afternoon about 15 kilometres from the nearest land.

The Milne Bay disaster coordinator Eric Balaria says the crew, some of whom were injured, took a lifeboat to make land and raise the alarm.

Mr Balaria says a search was mounted that night and all were rescued safely on Sunday, although an eighteen-month old child who was on board has since died.

He says about eight children and two women were placed on the top of the hull for their safety, while the men clung to the side partially submerged in water.

"Of course there are sharks around there, not only that the cold of the water, to remain in the sea for more than 24 hours you can actually die because of the cold. You can imagine that, you are in that situation. You just pray that someone will find you and save you."

Eric Balaria says the boat should only have been carrying 30 passengers, and it lost balance when it rolled in a wave because there were too many people on the top deck.