Fears continue for over 100 missing in Papua New Guinea ferry tragedy

Published: 9 February 2012 13:52 CET

By Reeni Amin Chua

Over 100 people are still missing after a ferry carrying approximately 350 passengers sank off the north coast of Papua New Guinea on the morning of 2nd February 2012.  Authorities have confirmed that 246 survivors have been saved.

The passenger ferry, Rabaul Queen, was on its way from Kimbe, a popular dive spot on the island of New Britain, to the mainland city of Lae. Rescuers spent 56 hours scouring the waters for survivors but rough seas and bad weather conditions hampered rescue efforts.

Staff and volunteers of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society have been at the scene of the disaster since the accident occurred to give a helping hand to the injured. 

“We have taken a proactive role in monitoring this dangerous situation, providing the necessary assistance to affected people,” said Esmie Sinapa, the society’s secretary general.

Red Cross volunteers have played a constant support role - offering counselling to relatives of the passengers waiting anxiously on shore. They also carried out small distributions of emergency relief supplies such as blankets, water, biscuits and sweet drinks, towels, personal hygiene items and mosquito nets.

As well as these items, the Red Cross is playing the important role of trying to put survivors in touch with their families.

“We operate as an important component of a coordinated disaster response network. Our volunteers work with the government and other partners in responding to significant disasters such as this," Esmie said.

The authorities fear that there is little hope of finding more survivors in the coming days. Although there have been incidents in the past where people have survived for a number of days in the warm waters of the Pacific, the rescue operation has now turned into a search for missing bodies.

The ferry sinking is the latest in a series of disasters to have hit Papua New Guinea. The Red Cross has recently responded to a series of storms, floods and landslides, the latest being a severe landslide which hit Tumbi Village in the Hela Province. 26 people died in the landslide and more than 30 are still unaccounted for.