Friday, 7 August 2009 6:00 AM

Search on for Survivors of Sunk Tongan Ship

The search is on for more survivors of passengers of MV Princess Ashika, which overturned in Tongan waters late Wednesday, with fears that women and children were unable to make it out of the sunken ship.

The tragedy has shook the island kingdom where 50 survivors have been recovered so far out of the 96 who were reported to be onboard.

According to the country's Matangi Tonga Online, a survivor, Siaosi Lavaka, said that only the men had reached the lifeboats after the MV Princess Ashika was overturned by heavy seas around midnight on Wednesday and he fears that all the women and children went down with the boat.

The MV Pulupaki arrived at Ha'afeva island at 11:00 am this morning with 50 survivors who are all men. "No women or children made it," said Siaosi, who talked to Matangi Tonga Online by cell phone at around midday today.

According to the report, Mr. Lavaka said that the sea was rough and before they reached Ha'afeva the waves went into the lower deck of the ferry where the crew were.

The ferry rocked and he believed this caused the cargo to move to one side. The ferry then began to overturn and some passengers jumped off.

"We woke up to the sound of shouting and we jumped off," he said.

He believed it was at about 11:55pm when survivors in the water started to get into lifeboats that were in the sea.

There were nine lifeboats and Siaosi said seven lifeboats were all filled with male survivors. When they got into the lifeboats the ferry subsided. He believed the women and children were all stuck inside the ferry when it went down. They were sleeping when the ferry got into difficulties.

There were two other the lifeboats, one was empty and the other lifeboat had already drifted off in the darkness.


Three foreigners are reported to be among the missing.

According to Matangi Tonga Online, the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd. Released a list around midday yesterday of known survivors which include 27 crew and 23 passengers, all thought to be male.

For the SCP list and breaking news on the tragedy, please visit the Matangi Tonga website: http://www.matangitonga.to or the link provided below.