Search begins for missing Kiribati fishermen

A RNZAF P3 Orion is en route to Kiribati to search for three missing fishermen.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was already responding to a report of three fishermen missing for three days south of Tarawa Island, Kiribati, and an Orion took off from Whenuapai early this morning to begin searching.

The P3 Orion was due over the search area in Kiribati at around 12pm today. The three fishermen are aboard a 6m vessel and are three days overdue from a fishing trip.

Meanwhile the Orion has established radio contact with a damaged British yacht heading to Noumea from Fiji. Fears were held for the 38ft catamaran Troutbridge after it lost contact with the yacht accompanying it following a storm on Thursday night.

En route to Kiribati, the Orion made contact with the skipper who reported that while the catamaran had sustained hull and rig damage and was leaking, pumps on board were working effectively and he was proceeding to Noumea. A voyage that is expected to take up to a week.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Mike Roberts said: "It's a great outcome to establish contact with the skipper of the Troutbridge - a lot of credit should go to the crew of the P3 Orion.

"Now we're also hoping for a positive result in the search for the fishermen off Kiribati. We've determined a search area of approximately 21,000 square kilometres which will be the focus of the aircraft's search efforts this afternoon."

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