SIX MISSING AT SEA
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN & IAN M.KAUKUI
TWO registered nurses are among six people who are still missing at sea in Temotu Province since Saturday following the recent bad weather.
Acting Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau told reporters that searches were conducted by police and medical officers since Tuesday but there were no sightings of the missing boats or persons as of Wednesday.
“The banana boat powered by one 40 horsepower engine was carrying six people including two registered nurses from Manuopo clinic in Reef Islands,” Mangau said.
Mangau said there were three males and three females on board the boat.
He said the passengers from Manuopo village were returning from Lata, Santa Cruz for banking purposes when they went missing.
Mangau said Lata police are working closely with the health agency.
“We also have the support of the New Zealand Air Force who are currently in the country on conducting aerial surveillance patrols in the Pacific.”
He added that according to information from Lata Police they are still experiencing bad weather.
The acting police chief urged communities in Temotu to observe the weather and listen out for advice from meteorology for weather forecasts.
“Refrain from going out to sea during the bad weather.
“Stay at home and consider your safety as well,” Mangau said.
Provincial Police Commander (PPC) Temotu Province Superintendent James Toaki in a press statement confirmed they are still experiencing strong winds, high seas and continuous rains all over the islands in the province.
He said unfortunately due to this bad weather they could not go out to sea and search for the missing people.
The boat went missing on Saturday, July 11 on its way to Manuopo Village, Reef Islands from Lata.
Lata Police received a report of the missing boat on Monday, July 13.
Toaki said searches were conducted on Tuesday, July 14 until Wednesday, July 15 and then halted due to the weather conditions not suitable for them to continue with the search.
He advised relatives of those missing to report any sightings as police are on standby should anything is reported.
He also appeals to people in Temotu Province to take all precautions during this time of bad weather.’
Director of Solomon Islands Maritime Authority (SIMA), Thierry Nervale yesterday said the search operation is still continuing with aerial and sea search.
“In terms of the search area, it’s a huge area given the boat went missing since on Saturday last week,” he said.
A Lata Police officer Constable Gabriel Tavake said they have conducted search since Wednesday mainly around Tinakula but there was no citing.
He said an NZ Air Force aircraft has also assisted to conduct an aerial search on that area and went as far as Nupani Island further behind the Tinakula.
Constable Tavake said the boat left Lata on Saturday despite the weather warning being issued at that time.
“The weather that day was unfavourable so other boats also heading to the Reef Islands have to seek shelter and spend the night at Kalabay, but that boat decides to continue its journey across,” he said.
He said the boat is also loaded with food and other items.
He said Lata police will continue to carry out the search until further notice is given to suspend the operation.
SIMA Director Mr. Nervale in light of the situation has reminded the public at large to always take into consideration all essential safety rules like checking the weather forecast and have lifesaving equipment for any trip at sea as part of safety measures.
He said abiding with those rules will lessen such incidents and people will always keep safe.