Dozens rescued after boat sinks off Solomon Islands

The survivors were spotted by an Australian Air Force plane and all 49 were picked up by a foreign vessel. [Australian Defence Force]
PHOTO

The survivors were spotted by an Australian Air Force plane and all 49 were picked up by a foreign vessel. [Australian Defence Force]

Last Updated: Mon, 28 May 2012 16:21:00 +1000

The Australian Air Force has helped in the rescue of 49 people who were adrift off Solomon Islands for four days after their boat sank.

The search for the inter-island freighter, the MV Solfish 001, began on Wednesday when it failed to arrive at the port of Lata in the eastern province of Temotu.

The RAAF, the French Navy, and the Royal Solomon Islands Police scoured 6,000 square kilometres of ocean.

The survivors were spotted by an Australian Air Force plane and all 49 were picked up by a foreign vessel.

The SIBC's Manager of News and Current Affairs, Walter Nalangu, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program the survivors are said to be in good health.

"Forty-nine people were picked up by the Micronesian Pride - the foreign cargo liner - on Saturday," he said.

"The people that were picked up include 33 men, 10 women and six children."

All those on the vessel had survived, a spokesman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority told AFP.

Three people reportedly needed hospital treatment in Kira Kira.

Investigation pending


The acting director of Solomon Islands' Maritime Safety Administration, Brian Aonima, says there will be an investigation into the cause of the sinking.

He has told Radio Australia there has been widespread praise for the rescuers.

"We have a lot of appreciation from the public to my office and telling us how impressed they are about the operations," he said.

The AMSA spokesman says the Solfish was believed to have been about 50 nautical miles from its destination when it ran into trouble.

Australian defence officials say the Australian air plane, the Orion, was critical in finding the survivors.

"The aircrew spent hours patiently working through the search zone and coordinating with other aircraft and vessels to firstly find the debris field and then confirm a possible sighting of life rafts," said chief of joint operations Lieutenant General Ash Power.

"About two hours after finding the debris, a civilian aircraft reported possible life rafts that were quickly confirmed through a low pass by the RAAF aircrew.

"The confirmation allowed surface vessels to be directed to the five life rafts and recover the 49 Solomon Islanders."

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