The New Zealand Defence Force has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft to help search for three Kiribati fishermen who failed to return from an overnight fishing trip four days ago. (file photo)
23 January 2018
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has joined the search for three Kiribati fishermen who failed to return from an overnight fishing trip four days ago.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft left Auckland at 4am to help in the search following a request last night from Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand.
The Orion is expected to arrive at the search area, which spans more than 28,000 square kilometres, later this morning.
The three men – ages 64, 33 and 28 – left Betio, the largest township of Kiribati’s capital city, South Tarawa, in a six-metre wooden canoe about 10pm on Thursday to fish near Buariki Reef, about 28 kilometres away in northern Tarawa. The men’s relatives sounded the alarm at 5am on Friday after they failed to return.
“We are hoping for the best possible outcome,” Air Commodore Webb said. “They have no communications equipment, flares or emergency provisions.”
A local vessel has been searching the area since Saturday and radio stations have asked vessels in the area to be on the lookout for the missing fishermen.
The NZDF flew nearly 140 hours on 13 search and rescue missions in New Zealand and the Pacific in 2017.