Five Temotuans who reportedly went missing on Monday 11th February, are now safe in Vanuatu after drifting for 25 days at sea after failing to reach their destination - Nifiloli in the reef islands.
According to a report reaching the Sunday Star, the five male survivors from Nifiloli, Veakau District, Temotu Province safely landed on Pentecost Island of Vanuatu.
“They left Utupua Island in Temotu Province to Reef Island after collecting food and betelnut. Unfortunately, they met rough seas that capsized their canoe, and to bail the canoe they have to untied their engine and let it go.
“They floated for 25 days surviving on drifted coconuts, fish and turtle before landed on Maewo, Pentecost Island of Vanuatu, on 24th February 2021, when the villagers of Ansanvari village swam out to sea to escort their canoe ashore,” it was reported.
They are currently cared for by the chief and people of Ansanvari village residing in the custom-house (Nakamal), the report said.
“Medical Team, covid-19 personals, and immigration officers visited them on 25th February. Blood had been collected for covid-19 and results are still pending. If tested negative then before any further arrangements to fly them to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu for any further arrangement and repatriation,” it added.
Meanwhile, they are well and healthy under the good care of chiefs and people of Ansanvari village.
Solomon Times Online (STO) earlier reported that the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Honiara was also informed of the missing persons on the 11th of February.
Director of the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority, Thierry Nervale said they immediately started an investigation to ensure the five did not land in one of the islands in the area.
“On Friday 12 we decided to conduct an aerial search as the search area in our drifting model was already extended towards the South-East of Temotu Province after 5 days. Australia provided precious assistance with an aircraft and conducted aerial searches on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14. Since Thursday 11 we have broadcasted alert messages through communication systems by satellite and Radio HF hoping fishing vessels in the area would find the banana boat. We have broadcasted alert messages and communicated to vessels in the area until just last Tuesday when we decided to stop”, Nervale said.
However, it was on Wednesday 25th February that reports of five Solomon Islanders going ashore on Maewo Island in Vanuatu were shared via social media.
A distant relative, Mr. Johnson Levela said, family members were relieved to get confirmation that the five got ashore safely in one of the islands in Vanuatu.
Mr. Levela said he was pleased to inform relatives that there was confirmation that the five have landed on Vanuatu shores and are being looked after on Maewo.
At the same time, SIMA Director, Thierry Nervale said the authority is so happy with the news and that the government is working hard to repatriate the people home as soon as possible. He said they are also thankful for the efforts made by Vanuatu authorities to take care of the five Solomon Islanders after such an ordeal.
However, the SIMA Director, said people must be prepared when they take sea voyages.
“May I please use the opportunity of this communication to recall our communities to prepare their voyage at sea, check meteorological conditions before departing and have onboard equipment to communicate and signal their presence to aircraft and vessels in case of a problem”, Nervale said.
By ESTHER NURIA
With additional Report by Gina Kekea/STO