Pacific Briefs



There are still at as many as 100 people unaccounted for after the sinking of a ferry off the eastern coast of Papua New Guinea on Thursday.

The MV Rabaul Queen sank near the end of a 20 hour journey between between Kimbe and PNG’s second largest city, Lae, after battling high seas.

The PNG Maritime Safety Authority says 246 people have been pulled from the sea, but vessels and aircraft are still searching for bodies.

The search area has been widened due to the weather and drift patterns.

The search has been hampered by high winds and heavy swells, making it difficult to spot any survivors.

The Authority’s Captain Nurur Rahman says people can survive for 3 to 4 days in the warmer water, and they will continue searching until they have exhausted all options.

He says debris was found on Friday, but there were no survivors with it.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that people may have gone down with the vessel. It’s quite deep, it’s about a thousand meters deep in this part, where the vessel was sunk. I still think there are a lot of people who would be swimming, and the coast is only nine nautical miles away, so there’s a good chance that people would have swam to the coastal area and got stuck in a place where communications are not available.”

Passengers on the top deck say the vessel tilted three times before it keeled over.

They have told reporters there was oil everywhere and some are now being treated for inhaling toxic substances as they climbed into life boats.

The managing director of the vessel’s owners, PNG-based Rabaul Shipping Company, Peter Sharp, says the company is stunned and devastated by what has happened.

He has issued a statement acknowledging that the sinking has caused tremendous suffering, offering condolences to the loved ones of those affected.

The government has ordered an investigation into the sinking.


The Nandi Weather Office is advising people in Fiji to take precautionary measures now as more flooding is expected.

The Director, Alipate Waqaicelua, says the office is monitoring the levels of the main rivers in Fiji.

A strong wind warning is now in force for all land areas around the country.

Fiji Village reports a low pressure system remains slow moving over the group and is expected to intensify into a tropical depression.

Meanwhile, a second depression is expected to develop into a tropical cyclone as it nears Fiji on Sunday.


Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court is reported to have issued a stay order on the rival O’Neill government’s suspension of the Chief Justice.

The prime minister Peter O’Neill yesterday announced his cabinet had suspended Sir Salamo Injia to allow for allegations of misconduct in office against him to be heard.

This comes as the Supreme Court is due to rule again on the validity of the O’Neill government.

In December, the court ruled that Mr O’Neill’s election as Prime Minister was unconstitutional.

The Attorney General of the rival Somare administration, Sir Arnold Amet, says the Supreme Court is taking similar steps as it did last year when the O’Neill group tried to remove the Chief Justice.

“This court is directing the Registrar to now also charge Peter O’Neill and the full members of his cabinet with contempt because the court is taking the view that this is an attempt to interfere with the course of justice.”


The Cook Islands health minister, Nandi Glassie, says more needs to be done at a governmental level and in the home to tackle suicide among young people.

Mr Glassie says the Cook Islands must tackle suicide as a nation, by bringing in better legislation for mental health, introducing more funding for psychological and mental health care, and becoming more open to discussing the topic in the home.

The minister has called on parents to be more aware of the problem of suicide, more open to discussions with their children and more empathetic to their troubles.

He says the level of suicide is very alarming for him and the government.

He says he was dismayed to hear a 16-year-old Rarotongan youth had killed himself last weekend, just one week after another 16-year-old girl had done so.


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