The Kiribati government says a ferry that sank this month near the remote Pacific nation had been damaged and was ordered not to carry passengers before it sailed.

Authorities say about 80 people are missing, although they haven't confirmed the exact number. A New Zealand military plane used its radar system to find seven survivors on a small wooden dinghy Sunday.

Government spokesman Tearinibeia Enoo-Teabo said Wednesday that Kiribati maritime authorities had ordered the MV Butiraoi, a 17.5-metre (57-foot) wooden catamaran, not to carry any passengers because it was seriously damaged. It's unclear if the damage to the navigational system, rudders and hull had been repaired.

He says investigators are going to the island to find out more about the passenger count and why the ferry left despite the orders.