3 Feb 2012

Hope of finding more survivors after PNG ferry sinking

10:53 am on 3 February 2012

Papua New Guinea rescue officials are hopeful of finding more survivors from a ferry sinking when the operation resumes at daybreak.

About 100 people, mostly tertiary students, are believed to be missing since the Rabaul Queen sank between Kimbe on the island of New Britain, and the mainland city of Lae.

Angry relatives of passengers have surrounded and thrown rocks at the shipping company's agent in Kimbe.

The owners, PNG-based Rabaul Shipping Company, has confirmed 350 passengers and 12 crew were onboard.

The National Maritime Safety Authority's Operations Manager Captain, Nurur Rahman, says 238 survivors have so far been rescued,

"The thing that is in out advantage is the sea water temperature is not very low, it's between 20 and 26 degrees celsius, which encourages less hypothermia. So I am very hopeful."

Nurur Rahman says resucers are expecting to again face strong winds and two metre swells this morning.

The president of Lae's Chamber of Commerce, Alan McClay, says, the stretch of water where the ferry sank yesterday is treacherous and the conditions were rough.

It's got a very strong tide running through it. And also, the weather conditions were pretty bad. There's a very strong wind that caused the sea to be very choppy, very deep swells. I think all of that combined and the vessel has overturned.

Our correspondent Oseah Philemon, says the area of ocean where the ferry sank has a reputation for rough seas.

The area is very notorius, it is notorius for rough seas and boating accidents over many years. And around about this time we've got these north west winds coming through and that's brought about a lot of rough seas in the area.