SEARCH FOR MISSING PNG SCIENTISTS, BOAT CREW ENDS

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Eight Travelers Disappeared Six Weeks Ago In Bismark Sea

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 13, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), West New Britain police have released the names of the three men who went missing on August 1 with the five malaria research scientists in Talasea waters.

Acting Provincial Police Commander Senior Inspector Thomas Reu named them as boat operators Peter Divu and Bombong Patela, both of Bali Island, and an Engan, known only by his first name Wani.

He said Wani was a relative of the scientific team leader Gibson Gideon from Enga and had been in Kimbe before the research team arrived to carry out work in malaria research. The other missing members are Leonard Vavana from East New Britain, George Dogoya from Lufa, Eastern Highlands and female members Tania Oakiva from Gulf and Lydia Petrus, from Ialibu, Southern Highlands.

Mr. Reu said a provincial disaster committee meeting on September 7 chaired by Administrator Steven Raphael agreed to suspend the five week old search for the missing eight. The meeting was attended by Mr. Reu as deputy chairman, acting provincial disaster coordinator Leo Mapmani and the provincial works coordinator. He said all avenues at sea, air and on the land had been exhausted and they had agreed to suspend and declare all eight missing. "We have suspended the search and declared them missing. We have informed the relatives too," he said.

The group’s 23-foot banana boat was found hundreds of kilometers away intact with its motor at Blup Blup Island off Wewak in East Sepik.

The fact that it was intact brought out piracy claims, however all police searches failed to find the missing eight or their alleged hijackers in the past five weeks.

At the time they went missing, team leader Gideon was carrying ‘almost 16,000 kina [US$7,002]’, Mr. Reu said last night.

That was up from the earlier quoted figure of 10,000 kina [US$4,400] intended for their accommodation, meals, transport and dinghy hire, an amount police say was ‘too risky’ to carry around in cash.

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