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HA‘APAI GOVERNOR RESCUED AFTER TWO DAYS AT SEA Tongan Noble Malupo found New Zealand Air Force

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Mar 24, 2009) – Tonga’s Governor of Ha΄apai, the Noble Malupo (56) and three other men, reported missing at sea for two days last week, were located by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion on Friday.

An Air Force Orion crew of 13 found the boat 200 kilometers north east of Nuku΄alofa, just before 10:30 on Friday morning.

Noble Malupo left Tongatapu for Ha΄apai with three men in a small open boat after dark on Tuesday March 17 and they were expected to arrive in Ha΄apai on Wednesday.

The Deputy Commander of Police, Taniela Faletau said yesterday, March 23, that the Ha΄apai Police alerted Tongatapu on Thursday, March 19, that the governor and his crew of three had not arrived at Lifuka on Wednesday, as scheduled.

Taniela said that the first search group that was sent out using a Latter Day Saints boat on Thursday, failed to find the missing boat.

"They searched some of the islands at the ΄Otu Mu΄omu΄a, including the island of Mango, but they could not be seen, and so by Thursday evening we reported the missing boat to the Rescue Co-ordinating Committee in Wellington, New Zealand, and an Orion search and rescue aircraft flew in on Friday morning. The missing boat was located at 10:00 am to the north east of Tongatapu."

Taniela said the TDS were requested to send out a boat to rescue the governor and his crew.

"The VOEA Savea was sent out and they picked them up at about 8:00 p.m. on Friday, and they finally arrived at Lifuka about 1:00 a.m. Saturday."

Taniela said that the motor of the boat broke down, and the boat was ill-equipped with no radio, life-saving gears or any means of communication.

Spotters on Chatham Air had also been unable to sight the missing boat.

It was a hazardous time in the area.

There was a submarine volcanic eruption at Hunga Ha΄apai, on March 17. Then at 7:17 a.m. on Friday a 7.9 earthquake located 200 kilometers to the south of Tongatapu was followed by a tsunami warning for Tonga.

Meanwhile, the Royal New Zealand Air Force reported that there was a bit of luck involved in locating so quickly the stricken boat carrying Malupo.

A spokesperson said that after entering the search area it took just 52 minutes for the Orion to find the boat.

Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki told Radio New Zealand International that the rescue was very successful.

"We dropped a communications radio to the people who were on the vessel so our aircraft could communicate with them and establish that they were all fine and well but the boat was stranded and without power."

Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki said the Orion was to then coordinate a rendezvous with a Tongan patrol craft sailing to the aid of the survivors.

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