WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand military planes on Monday were scouring a section of the Pacific Ocean for more survivors from a missing ferry after seven people were rescued from a dingy that was adrift for days.
The seven survivors, including an unconscious teenage girl, were safely transferred to a nearby fishing vessel late on Sunday, Defence Force Air Commodore Darryn Webb told Radio New Zealand.
The air search resumed at first light on Monday, he said.
The 17-metre (56-foot) ferry with 50 people on board was reported missing on Jan. 20, two days after it departed Nonouti Island on a 250-km (155-mile) trip to Betio in Kiribati.
“They (the search crew) will be feeling mixed emotions now that they’ve discovered a dinghy with some survivors but not everyone on board,” Webb said.
The Defence Force believed there could be a life raft with more surviving passengers, he added.
“We remain optimistic that we may find some more survivors,” he said.
New Zealand has been coordinating the search since Saturday and a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft spotted the dinghy within two hours of reaching the search area on Sunday morning, the NZDF said in a statement.
Before it left Nonouti Island, the missing ferry, a wooden catamaran, underwent repairs to its propeller shaft after running aground.
Reporting by Stephen Coates and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Keith Weir and Cynthia Osterman