2 Feb 2012

More than 200 rescued after PNG ferry sinks

10:12 pm on 2 February 2012

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says 219 people have been rescued off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea after a ferry sunk there on Thursday.

The MV Rabaul Queen, which had about 350 people on board, went down about 16 kilometres off the coast of Finschhafen, 80km from its final destination of Lae.

Ferry operator Rabaul Shipping says it lost contact with the vessel early on Thursday morning.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says eight merchant vessels are at the scene of where the MV Rabaul Queen sank, and five have recovered a total of 219 survivors.

Police in Kimbe, where the ferry sailed from, say most of the passengers were students and trainee teachers.

PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill says there will be an investigation into the accident.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs says the ferry's owners do not believe foreigners were onboard, however consular officials are still seeking confirmation.