14 Mar 2012

Officials close to finalising death toll from PNG ferry disaster

2:04 pm on 14 March 2012

Disaster officials in Papua New Guinea say they hope to finalise the death toll from the MV Rabaul Queen sinking by the end of this week and say it's not as high as they recently thought.

The ship sank on February the 2nd in heavy seas off the Morobe coast and official estimates of lives lost have ranged from about 100 to 300.

The Morobe province disaster management co-ordinator, Charlie Masange, says because of some inconsistencies they have been calling relatives to confirm whether people were actually on the vessel, and cross checking names with the ship's manifest.

Mr Masange says in a couple of cases people were lying about having lost relatives in the sinking.

Recent estimates put the death toll as high as 321, but Mr Masange says the number missing is more like 220.

He says they hope to finalise that by the end of the week to send to the Coroner for a declaration.

Meanwhile the principal of the shipping company involved, Peter Sharp, estimates that based on the ticket butts, the toll is 128.