x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Tonga ferry search finds remains

A miniature submarine identifies a ferry that sank off Tonga earlier this month and finds human remains from the scores of people presumed dead.

NUKU'ALOFA, TONGA // A miniature submarine today formally identified a ferry that sank off Tonga earlier this month and found some human remains from the scores of people presumed dead, officials said. But New Zealand prime minister John Key, whose navy is leading search efforts, said that an operation to salvage the ferry or recover remains of the victims was unlikely. "I personally think that is likely to be very remote," Mr Key said. "It would be not only very expensive but would take some time to deploy and of what merit it would be by the time it got there, would be questionable."

Officials again revised the number of people they believe were on-board the ferry and thus missing to 73 today. Conflicting and incomplete information has made it difficult for authorities to get an accurate count. The Princess Ashika sank minutes after a big wave overturned the ship on August 5 with 129 people on board, said Tongan police chief Commander Chris Kelley. He said 54 people survived, but police have located only two bodies. The tragedy has reverberated through the tiny, impoverished South Pacific kingdom, triggering accusations that the government allowed the ferry to operate despite being unseaworthy. The government has rejected the claims.

* AP