5 Feb 2012

Official death toll in PNG ferry sinking climbs to 6

10:23 pm on 5 February 2012

The official death toll in the sinking of a ferry off Papua New Guinea has risen to six.

The Maritime Safety Authority says two more bodies were plucked from the ocean during an aerial search on Sunday.

About 100 people are still missing.

Some 246 people have been rescued after the MV Rabaul Queen sank between the island of New Britain and the mainland city of Lae on Thursday.

Strong winds forced rescuers to suspend their aerial search for survivors on Sunday.

Authorities had hoped Sunday's search would find survivors following reports a family member had been contacted by a survivor via cell phone, saying they were on an uninhabited island with 26 others.

But the authority says it has a high degree of confidence that any active survivors or persons inside life rafts or with lifejackets within the search area would have been sighted and recovered by now.

It is still not clear how many people were on board.

The head of Papua New Guinea's Maritime Safety Authority Nurur Rahman said he had not been able to get an accurate copy of the ship's manifest.

The ship's owners say 350 people were on the boat. However, some passengers say the true number was more than 500.

Captain Rahman said the ferry sank in 1300 metres of water and Papua New Guinea does not have the resources to recover the vessel from that depth.