WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Authorities have called off an aerial search for survivors of a ferry that sank last month while sailing between two islands in the remote Pacific nation of Kiribati.
An estimated 81 people are missing and presumed dead. Seven survivors were rescued from a small wooden dinghy on Sunday, after a military plane from New Zealand used radar to locate the craft.
Kiribati's government says maritime authorities had ordered the MV Butiraoi ferry not to take any passengers because it had sustained serious damage to its navigational system, rudders and hull. The government is investigating why the ferry left.
Authorities say they believe the ferry was carrying 88 passengers and crew when it left Nonouti Island bound for South Tarawa on Jan. 18. They believe it sank that same day.