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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 3) –The first elected governor of the state of Chuuk, Erhart Aten, and his father have been missing at sea since Sunday evening when their boat encountered bad weather, possibly due to a strong typhoon heading to the Philippines today.

Capt. Swainer Airam of Chuuk’s Department of Transportation told Variety in a phone interview they have still not found the victims as of yesterday afternoon or five days after their disappearance.

He said Guam’s Coast Guard has already sent helicopters and a search and rescue team to help find the former governor and his father as well as two other men who were with them.

"This morning (Thursday) the Guam Coast Guard started sending out the aircraft to look for former Governor Aten. They are searching the state lagoon but there’s no (positive) response yet," he said.

Airam, who is in charge of one of Chuuk government’s marine vessels, said the former governor had a meeting with Chuukese leaders last Sunday on Callos island.

When the meeting ended that evening, Airam said the former governor and his relatives headed back to their island, Weno, aboard a 14-ft. boat

But the strong winds and currents brought by typhoon Nanmadol which is heading to the Northeastern Philippines, packing with winds of up to 220 kilometres per hour, made it difficult for their journey.

"They never reached the island," said Airam.

He said the local government conducted its search and rescue operation immediately thereafter but did not find the victims.

According to Bermin’s News Network or BNN, Aten was the first elected governor of Chuuk State and served for a full two-terms.

After serving his second term, Aten then moved to the private sector and joined Mobil Oil Micronesia.

BNN said a similar incident occurred in the same lagoon about two months ago which cost the lives of the spouse and daughter of a favorite-to-win political candidate.

Mithasy Mark, the president of the Chuukese Association in the CNMI, said they had not heard anything about the former governor’s sea accident.

He expressed hope that Aten and his relatives would soon be found.

Airam said Aten is among the island leaders who is best remembered for his efforts to improve the economy of Chuuk. (With reports by BNN)

December 3, 2004

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