Sixty lost in Tonga ferry sinking

In Australasia, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

More than 60 people, mainly women and children, are now feared to have drowned after a ferry capsized near the Pacific Island state of Tonga.

The vessel went down about 90km (55 miles) from the capital, Nuku’alofa, late on Wednesday, officials said.
Some 50 male passengers, travelling on deck, were rescued; many women and children, who were sleeping in cabins below, are feared lost with the ship.
Tongan officials say 117 people were on board the Princess Ashika when it sank.

On Friday, Tonga’s Prime Minister, Feleti Sevele, said there was little hope of finding more survivors from the overnight ferry.
This is a huge disaster, a huge loss, we’ll try and cope with it as best we can Feleti Sevele-Tongan Prime Minister
He has asked New Zealand and Australia to send navy divers to help recover bodies.
Two bodies have so far been recovered, including a British man identified as Dan MacMillan, 48, who had been living in New Zealand.
German, French and Japanese nationals were reportedly among several other foreign nationals on board.
New Zealand has sent a military plane to join the search for survivors among the floating debris.
“This is a huge disaster, a huge loss, we’ll try and cope with it as best we can,” Mr Sevele told reporters in Cairns, Australia, where he was attending the Pacific Islands Forum.
The Tongan leader said the cause of the sinking was unknown, and although questions have been raised about the vessel’s seaworthiness he said it had passed safety inspections.
The ferry had been travelling from Nuku’alofa to outlying northern islands of Tonga when it sent a mayday call at about 2300 local time on Wednesday (1100 GMT).
Those who managed to make it to lifeboats say the ferry rolled in heavy seas and sank within minutes.
Media reports in New Zealand suggest the missing include 23 men, 21 women, and seven children, with more passengers yet to be identified.
The tragedy has rocked the tiny nation of 120,000, which consists of 170 islands dotted over an area of 748 sq km (289 sq miles) and is heavily reliant on ferries.

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