28 Feb 2012

PNG officials still trying to trace 179 people after ferry disaster

6:13 pm on 28 February 2012

Officials in Papua New Guinea's Morobe Province are trying to trace 179 people unaccounted for since the Rabaul Queen ferry disaster four weeks ago.

Preliminary estimates have put the death toll from the sinking as high as 321 but incomplete manifests mean it is very difficult for officials to say with certainty how many people died.

Our correspondent in Lae, Oseah Philemon, says the acting provincial administrator for Morobe, Patilias Gamato, told a memorial service for victims in the city that they believe the vessel had 558 on board and that 237 were rescued.

"He said that information that has come about suggests that 179 people are still unaccounted for, and so he said because of this he's not able to make a declaration of the actual number of survivors and the missing and those presumed dead. He is going to delay that while he gets the officers to check and just to ring around the country and find out from relatives of these 179 people exactly whether they are actually missing or if they are still out there alive."