27 January 2018
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has joined the search for a 17-metre wooden catamaran with more than 50 people on board, which has been reported missing in the Pacific Ocean for almost a week.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft left Auckland at 6am to help in the search following a request last night from the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand.
The catamaran, named Butiraoi, left Nonouti Island, an atoll about 250 kilometres south of Kiribati’s capital city, South Tarawa, on 18 January and was bound for Betio, the largest township in the capital. Local authorities began searching for the vessel after it failed to arrive on 20 January as scheduled.
Air Commodore Webb said the Orion was expected to arrive at the search area around midday.
“We are always ready to play our part at home and in the region to help those in need,” he said.
Local authorities said the vessel ran aground and underwent repairs to its propeller shaft before it left Nonouti Island. The boat is equipped with a high frequency radio but it is not known whether there is enough fuel or water on board.
The NZDF flew nearly 140 hours on 13 search and rescue missions in New Zealand and the Pacific in 2017.