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Still no sign of missing Taiwanese fishermen
4:43 pm GMT+12, 21/11/2008, New Zealand

New Zealand air force Orion has found no sign of 29 missing fishermen in the South Pacific, StuffNZ reports.
The burnt out hulk of the Taiwan registered Ta Ching 21 was found three weeks ago in the 53,000 square kilometre vast empty waters between Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati.

The boat's life rafts were missing.

An initial search for the crew of Taiwanese, Chinese, Filipino and Indonesian nationals was conducted by a US Air Force C-130 Hercules on November 12 without success.

After a 12 hour SAR flight yesterday the RNZAF Orion and crew left Samoa at 5.00am local to cover another third of the search area.

Orion captain Squadron Leader Mike Pearson said the search was particularly challenging because the search area is based on the best estimate given the absence of a rescue beacon to target in on.

“We flew over a French Naval vessel yesterday and provided the search details to them also. They put up their onboard helicopter for 90 minutes to assist us, which was a huge benefit.

“I have a very experienced crew with me onboard and although this is one of the toughest SAR missions we have been tasked to do, if the fishermen are in the search area we remain hopeful that we will find them,” said Pearson

The RNZAF Orion crew is expected to land in Samoa this afternoon.

They will cover the remaining search area tomorrow before re-evaluating the search in conjunction with the Fijian and New Zealand authorities.

A number of remarkable survival stories have come from the region.

During World War Two a man, Nabetari, escaped from Japanese held Baraba and was adrift six months before washing up on New Guinea. And in 1991 two i-Kiribati men drifted from Kiribati to Samoa over 177 days.

However they were in solid dug out craft while the missing fishermen are in less stable inflatables…

SOURCE: STUFFNZ/PACNEWS


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