At least seven survivors from a ferry that sank more than a week ago near the Pacific island-nation of Kirabati have been rescued from a small dinghy.
New Zealand’s military found the survivors aboard a wooden dinghy after the 56-foot catamaran ferry MV Butiraoi went missing. The vessel was originally thought to be carrying 50 passengers and crew; however, Kirabati President Taneti Mamau later said that up to 100 people may have been aboard.
The ferry’s disappearance was first reported on Jan. 20 after it failed to arrive at Betio in Kirabati’s Tarawa Atoll two days after departing from Nonouti island, 135 nautical miles to the southeast. New Zealand’s air-and-sea assets, which routinely patrol that region, were not alerted until six days later, on Friday.
The survivors — Three men and four women, including one girl aged 14 — reportedly told their rescuers that the ferry sank and that they had been adrift on the life raft for several days without any drinking water.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb said Monday that he did not know the exact condition of the seven other than that they were “pretty dehydrated,” according to the Times. A spokesman for New Zealand’s rescue operation said the group had survived “in the baking sun,” according to The New York Times.