Hope is fading for survivors of the Kiribati ferry and more than 20 children are among those feared lost

Reports are surfacing that 22 children may have been on board the Kiribati ferry. It is thought the ferry has sunk in the Pacific.

According to Maritime New Zealand, a list released by the Nonouti Council shows that 65 adults, 13 high school students and 10 primary-aged children were on board.

The MV Butiraoi wooden ferry left Nonouti Island on 18 January for a two-day trip to Betio. A door-to-door survey of the villages has led authorities to believe that 88 passengers were on board the ferry. US, Australian and New Zealand services are helping in the search and rescue operation.

Kiribati ferry disaster search

An update of the search operation from Maritime New Zealand was posted yesterday. US, Australian and New Zealand services are taking part in the search. Credit: Maritime New Zealand

Seven passengers were rescued on Sunday when a New Zealand Air Defence plane spotted them drifting in the Pacific Ocean. A 14-year-old girl was among the seven survivors on board.

There has been no sightings of the other life rafts. The search continues.

30 January

At least seven people from the missing Kiribati ferry have been found adrift in a dinghy in the Pacific Ocean.

Kiribati survivors. Credit: New Zealand Defence Force

Kiribati survivors. Credit: New Zealand Defence Force

The ferry went missing almost two weeks ago in the Kiribati archipelago and was carrying at least 50 passengers and could have had up to 100 people on board.

The survivors were found adrift in a 5m dinghy in the Pacific Ocean and were rescued by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). So far rescue operations have uncovered no other sightings nor evidence of the ferry.

Kiribati ferry rescue

Survivors of the Kiribati ferry are rescued by fishing vessel. Credit: New Zealand Defence Force

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft spotted the dinghy and dropped supplies and a radio to the survivors on board. The survivors had been adrift for days.

A fishing vessel contacted by the Orion to support the rescue effort was around 92 kilometres northeast of the dinghy’s location and eventually took the survivors to safety.

The NZDF initially reported that seven survivors were found on board but unconfirmed reports suggest that eight people may have been on board the 5m dinghy.

Kiribati ferry

Images from the P-3K2 Orion. Credit: New Zeland Defence Force

MV Butiraoi, a 17m wooden passenger ferry, left Nonouti Island on 18 January for a two-day to Betio, in the Kiribati archipelago but never arrived.

The search continues for survivors with New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and now the US joining in the rescue operations but no other sightings have been made of the ferry or other survivors.

Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, comprises 33 low-lying coral atolls.