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Awaiting formal request from stricken islanders

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 12, 2010) – A possible emergency airlift of food to hungry inhabitants of a remote atoll in Kiribati, is on hold while American authorities await a formal request from the Kiribati government.

A British yachtsman, Alex Bond, found the 24 inhabitants of Canton Island in the Phoenix Group living only on fish and coconuts, as the government boat carrying supplies has failed to arrive for six weeks.

He says they are not starving, but he believes the children could be malnourished.

Mr Bond contacted the coastguard in his home town of Falmouth in the United Kingdom, and they passed his message to the US Coastguard in Hawaii.

Coastguard public affairs officer in Honolulu, Lt Gene Maestas, says they standing by ready to help if asked.

"We then forwarded that along to the Kiribati Consulate here in Honolulu. We've been told that the Kiribati Consulate is investigating that report, but they have not gotten back to us with any official request for support. But if we were requested to assist I'm sure that we would do everything that we could to help."

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