Police End Search Efforts For Lost Tongan

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

After nearly a week, no sign of men lost during dive

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 4, 2013) – The Tonga Police have ended a three days search and rescue operation for three Vava'u fishermen who have been missing for six-days. The men failed to return to their boat after diving off Hakaufasi Reef in Vava'u on Wednesday, May 29, in rough seas.

Superintendent Netane Falakiseni, the Officer in Command at the Vava'u Police Station, said the missing fishermen are Fangupo Fifita (42) and Fe'iloaki 'Ahio (44) of Mataika, and Pauli Malimali (32) of Talihau. They were part of a group of six who went diving for fish and lobster who failed to return to the boat on May 30.

He said a boat was dispatched to the reef on Saturday June 1, carrying a search team of police officers and civilians but there were no sign of the missing men. "Three more boats were sent out yesterday and carried out extensive search of the surrounding islands near the reef but were unsuccessful," he said.

"After an assessment of the operation, police decided to cease the search and the next of kin of the men were officially advised," he said.

Real Tonga Airline had also assisted with an aerial search over the weekend but there were still no signs of the missing men, he said.

Rough seas

One of the group of fishermen who returned to Neiafu, Kilisimasi Ma'ukolo, told Matangi Tonga last week that while diving they had encountered strong winds and rough seas. He and two others managed to get back to the reef and waited for the three men to return but there were no sign of them so they returned to Neiafu and reported the matter to police.

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