Australia, US Join the Missing Ferry Search

The P3K2 Orion on the last leg of its flight to the search area

However, it went missing for almost a week before New Zealand rescue authorities were alerted by the Kiribati Government.

A New Zealand Air Force Orion is due to resume searching for a Kiribati ferry carrying 50 passengers missing in the Pacific.

A fishing vessel about 92km (57 miles) away had been alerted and was making its way to the dinghy, he said.

New Zealand Defence Force air commodore Darryn Webb said the Orion dropped supplies to the survivors, before a fishing boat changed its course and picked up the survivors on Sunday afternoon.

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He said the dinghy was drifting more than 180 kilometers (112 miles) from the nearest major island when it was found.

According to New Zealand authorities, the group had managed to scramble onto the small wooden raft as the ferry sank, but did not have the time to carry drinking water with them.

Three men - two in their 20s and one aged 34 - and four females - three in their 20s and one aged 14 were found on the basic wooden dingy.

The survivors on the dinghy were reported to be in "reasonable health" despite spending more than a week at sea without water, an engine, or a radio to call for help.

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"A huge "thank you" to AMSA, US Coast Guard, our NZ Air Force colleagues and the crew of the FV Lomalo for helping out with this search - their support is hugely appreciated".

When the 17-meter-long (56 feet) catamaran-style passenger ferry didn't arrive in Betio on January 20, the search began. "The searchers are guided by RCCNZ's drift modelling that takes into account wind and currents and targets their efforts to find any survivors", he said. Webb said a Kiribati plane had earlier searched for the ferry but didn't have sophisticated radar equipment.

The MV Butiraoi departed from Nonouti island on 18 January on a voyage that was expected to last two days.

Both are part of Kiribati, an island nation made up of 33 atolls.

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