12 May 2011

US Coastguard Hercules takes up Kiribati search as NZ Airforce Orion returns home

8:15 am on 12 May 2011

A Hercules aircraft from the United States Coastguard is continuing the search for a group of six young people missing from Kiribati since Friday.

The group, which includes two 19-year-old boys and four girls aged eight, nine, 12 and 14, set out on a three-metre canoe towing a smaller dinghy to collect palm leaves, and are thought to have drifted out to sea.

The New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre says an Airforce Orion that searched 60-thousand square kilometres of ocean since Sunday, returned to New Zealand last night.

The Centre says the US Coastguard's Hercules is expected to continue the search for three to four more days.

It says an empty canoe sighted off the coast of Kiribati a few days ago is the same one the missing children were last seen in.