But authorities confirmed last night the ill-fated ship, Solfish I, had sunk.
“We can confirmed the ship had sank, but it’s not clear whether everyone on board was safe,” Brian Aonima of the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration, says.
Seventeen crew and 17 passengers were on board the ship on their way to Temotu Province.
An Australian military aircraft engaged in the search spotted the survivors on four life-rafts, north east of Santa Ana in Makira.
Aonima says patrol boat Lata, which was near Santa Anna at that time, was directed to pick up the survivors.
“Lata left Santa Anna at 5pm and is expected to reach the location of the life-rafts at midnight,” he says.
Solfish I, owned by local business giant Lee Kwok Kuen Ltd, was believed to have sunk between 3pm and 10pm on Wednesday.
It last reported its location to the Marine Office 3pm that day.
The Search and Rescue office in Honiara was alerted on Thursday after the vessel failed to arrive in time at Lata.
A huge search and rescue operation was mounted with the help of the Australian military until yesterday.
Aonima says they will continue to monitor the rescue efforts conducted last night.
“Survivors will be taken to Kirakira for medical attention, but anyone in critical condition will be flown over to Honiara by helicopter,” he says.
Yesterday’s discovery came as a relief to relatives of those on board whose fears have grown since the vessel was reported missing.
By Daniel Namosuaia
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