Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Not all Buka passengers on manifest


THE passenger list handed out by the owners of the ill-fated mv Rabaul Queen does not contain the names of the majority of passengers who boarded it from Buka, The National reports.
There were only six passengers listed as travelling from Buka, in North Solomons, although survivors confirmed that there were a lot more Bougainvilleans who boarded the vessel there because it was first port of call.
The ship sank last Thursday in heavy seas off Finschhafen, Morobe province. So far, 246 survivors had been brought to Lae by rescue teams.
Attempts to get the exact number of people from the shipping company who might have been on board have not been successful.
The company had closed its offices in Buka, Kokopo, Kimbe and Lae. It has refused to answer queries from distraught relatives, friends, survivors and journalists.
The manifest was released by the company last Saturday but did not have listing of people who got on the ship at Buka, the first port of call.
Only those who were travelling from the other two ports of call in Rabaul and Kimbe were on the list. The listing had 230 people travelling from Rabaul which was the second port of call, while 145 boarded the vessel at  Kimbe. All these passengers totalling 375 were listed as bound for Lae.
The vessel was licensed to carry only 310 passengers.
Seasoned travellers who frequently use the inter-island shipping services said many passengers got on the boats at the last minute without purchasing tickets at the port of departure. But they pay at the port of disembarkation.  Many who were on the boat could not have had their names on the shipping company’s official manifest.
This meant that many who are still missing would not have had their names on the shipping company’s official documentation and might not be accounted for unless they had alerted relatives, friends or guardians to expect them in Lae.
Adult passengers travelling from Buka to Lae pay K440. Those from Rabaul pay K350 while travellers from Kimbe pay K210 for the trip to Lae.
The provincial disaster office in Lae confirmed that the mv Rabaul Queen began its trip from Buka. The six people on the manifest included four adults and two children. It would have brought the “official” total number of passengers travelling last Thursday to 381.
Search in the provincial waters of Morobe is still continuing with teams stretching their area to the southernmost parts of Oro (Northern) and Milne Bay.
Four bodies retrieved so far – three adult females and a five-year-old boy – were found towards Milne Bay waters.
This has prompted search and rescue operations to also move into the area with two boats and a plane involved in the search

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