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By Philip Dowa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 13) – A three-year-old boy [was among 17 people] who survived 13 hours adrift in Vitiaz Strait off Finschhafen, Papua New Guinea after their boat capsized early yesterday.

[PIR editor’s note: Finschhafen is a town on the central north coast of Papua New Guinea’s mainland peninsula, east of Lae city.]

Young Manfred Sakat and his father, Terence, were heading towards Sialum on Tuesday afternoon when their banana boat capsized between Siassi Island to the north and the Finschhafen district – a stretch of water known to be very rough.

They drifted for about 16 kilometers [9.9 miles] before they were rescued at the mouth of Samboro River near Gitua village, northwest of Finschhafen, early Wednesday morning. Fifteen others, including Manfred’s five-year-old sister and mother, were also picked up.

Morobe administrator Manasupe Zurenuoc told The National yesterday that the 19-foot banana boat was apparently overloaded with passengers and cargo when it left Gagidu. He said when the boat reached Kanome Point, a slight swell developed.

The boat took in water and then turned over.

Sakat, who is the deputy head of the Sialum district administration, grabbed Manfred while his wife Linda took care of their daughter, Elizabeth.

Some government employees and students traveling with them also went to help Linda and Elizabeth.

Sakat managed to grab a zoom drum and put Manfred on top of it.

The survivors struggled to stay together as they drifted in the dark.

Zurenuoc commended the district emergency team, villagers and the local government officer for working tirelessly to rescue the 17 people.

He said it was fortunate no one drowned or was injured although the boat could not be found.

April 14, 2006

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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