MISSING BOUGAINVILLE BOATERS TURN UP IN MILNE BAY

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By Clifford Faiparik

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 4) – A boat with seven people on board that went missing in Bougainville for about 28 days had been found in Milne Bay province, Papua New Guinea, last Monday, Milne Bay provincial disaster coordinator Eric Balaria said yesterday.

"They were found near Sudest island and were taken by a fishing boat to Misima island. They are now in the care of the district officers.

"We are now making arrangements for them to be repatriated back to Bougainville.

"We have not received any information regarding their health conditions or how they had survived. All we know is that they are now in Misima.

"However, we still have yet to contact the authorities in Bougainville to tell them the good news."

Mr Balaria said that he was notified by Bougainville authorities when the boat went missing and to keep a look-out for the missing boat.

He said he had alerted his outstation officers about the boat and finally found it.

All hopes to find the boat earlier was abandoned after the first two weeks of search since last Dec 6 .

The search cost K120,000.

The missing people were thought to be dead when people in the surrounding islands in the region recovered debris which they suspected were from the missing boat.

A chair which they believed was from the boat was washed ashore in Nuguria atolls and a pallet at Pororan island.

People in the surrounding islands, urged by the Bougainville authorities to keep a look-out for signs of the missing boat and to report to the LLG office in Buka, were unsuccessful in locating it.

A PNGDF patrol, which was part of the search party that searched between Bougainville and Kavieng in the New Ireland province, was also unsuccessful in its search for the missing boat.

The missing included the skipper, the Nissan administrator, an health extension officer at Nissan hospital, the district rural development officer, a policeman and two students, one of whom was a Grade 8 student, going home for her graduation and the other, a UPNG student.

They had left Buka at around 11am on Dec 1 and were reported missing after the boat failed to reach Nissan the next day.

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