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124 missing after ferry sank off coast of Papua New Guinea

Gorothy Kenneth/AFP/Getty Images

The MV Rabaul Queen ferry sank 10 miles off the east coast, leaving many adrift in inflatable rafts.

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea - An air and sea search continued today for more than 120 people still missing in the sea off Papua New Guinea’s east coast after a ferry sank with 362 people on board, officials said.

The owners of MV Rabaul Queen, the Papua New Guinea Rabaul Shipping Company, said yesterday that there had been 350 passengers and 12 crew aboard the 22-year-old Japanese-built ferry when it went down yesterday morning while traveling from Kimbe on the island of New Britain to the coastal city of Lae on the main island.

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“We are stunned and utterly devastated by what has happened,’’ managing director Peter Sharp said in a statement.

By nightfall yesterday, 238 survivors had been rescued by merchant ships battling 16-foot swells and 45 mile-per-hour winds at the disaster scene 50 miles east of Lae and 10 miles from shore, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

The survivors were delivered to Lae, the South Pacific country’s second largest city, by five ships early today, said the AMSA, which is assisting Papua New Guinea authorities with the rescue operation.

The search continued at first light today with three ships, two airplanes, and two helicopters, AMSA said.

An angry crowd threw stones at the Kimbe office of Rabaul Shipping Company last night, outraged at a lack of information, police said.

“There were a lot of people crying and then they wanted to know the fate of their loved ones, the people actually who were on board,’’ Kimbe Police Inspector Samson Siguyaru told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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