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SEARCH CONTINUES FOR THE 14 MISSING AT SEA

By Bradley Mariori

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea is providing the necessary support required in the search of a boat that went missing with 14 ELC East Simbu District delegates.

ELCPNG Head Bishop Reverend Dr Jack Urame said delegates from ELC East Simbu were on their way to attend the 21st National Youth Conference in Finschhafen, Morobe on Tuesday, September 26th, 2023 when the boat they were travelling went missing.

Rev Urame said the church executives and the conference committee received the news of the missing boat on Thursday, September 28th, 2023 which is three days later.

He said once they were informed, they quickly liaised with relevant authorities of disaster, water police, local MPs, National Maritime Services Authority and other local search teams to search for the missing boat and the passengers onboard.

“We are a church and we don’t have the capacity to conduct search which involve high level capacity so we work closely with relevant authorities to assist in the search while we provide the support needed.

“Today is the second week now and we are yet to receive any information of the whereabouts of these people and the boat,” Rev Urame said.

Rev Urame said search and rescue teams were sent out conducting search on the sea, in the air and along the coastlines already but they are waiting for official release of these search team reports from Morobe Emergency and Disaster Office.

He said once search reports are given, they can establish information to two questions which are: what really happened and where are they now, as they are still confused of what actually happened and these people are still missing at sea.

“I want to appeal to the relatives of those ELC East Simbu delegates back at home that this is an unexpected natural disaster and we cannot directly say the church is exclusively responsible but the church is concerned and deeply sad.”

“We share the sorrow and pain with the families of those went missing because we are talking about human life and they are the future of this church so we are doing what we can to at least find information leading to the incident,” Rev Urame said.

Rev Urame said this incident should have been avoided only if proper communication and coordination of transport arrangement was done between church officers in Lae, those in Finschhafen and the delegates to avoid the bad weather and strong wind on the day they travelled.

He said the delegates decided to arrange their own transportation at Vocco point while the church workers focused on getting everyone on the ship so there was a disconnection between the church and the delegates who arrived late when the ship was already full to capacity on that day.

“This is why when one of the boats the delegates travelled went missing. We are confused where to get the right information from to establish the facts to resolve the mystery.”

“We try every means to provide assistance to continue and as much as possible, we are cooperating with government agencies until we conclude in a way that give satisfaction and peace to the missing people’s relatives and to everyone who are waiting for the outcome of the search,” Rev Urame added.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police-Northern command, Peter Guinness said Negligence by boat skippers and crews over the years have resulted in a lot of casualties and loss of lives and properties at sea in Morobe.

He said all passengers traveling on a boat must have a life jacket on board to help them but these people don’t have these on.

He said search is still going on including a plane and helicopter search but the people were not found.

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