The search for eight fishermen missing off Samoa after last week's cyclone has resumed this morning (17 December) with a RNZAF P3 Orion and French Navy Gardian aircraft tasked by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) to cover coastal areas and around 4,800 square kilometres of ocean to the south of the main islands.
Three boats – all 9m, twin-hulled, aluminium vessels fitted with outboard motors - were due to return from fishing trips on Friday.
Both planes searched yesterday without success. The Orion spotted a vessel answering the description of one the missing vessels washed up on Apolima Island, but Samoan authorities advised it had been there for some weeks.
The Orion also sighted what is thought to have been a hull floating 45 kilometres west of Manono but this has not been confirmed as one of the missing vessels.
A vessel from the Samoa Shipping Company will carry out a sea search between the main island of Upolu and the smaller Manono, where the 30-year-old skipper of one of the missing fishing boats managed to reach shore on Saturday.
RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Geoff Lunt said debris from the cyclone made for challenging searching conditions.
“There is a lot of flotsam in the ocean which makes the visual search quite challenging but the aircraft will be coordinating their efforts to ensure the search area is thoroughly covered,” he said.
NOTE TO MEDIA – A further update will be issued this afternoon, unless there are developments earlier.