Body found in search for missing 14 in Solomons

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission

Police and maritime officials in the Solomon Islands have found the body of a woman they believe is one of 14 people missing at sea since New Year’s Day.

One of the boats that left Gizo for the Shortland Islands on New Year's Day.
One of the boats that left Gizo for the Shortland Islands on New Year’s Day. Photo: Supplied

Two boat loads of people left Gizo for the Shortland Islands on 1 January, with one vessel drifting near Moli where it was found on 2 January. The other, carrying 14 people, failed to reach its destination.

The woman was found on Tuesday night near Zinoa Island, Vouza in Choiseul Province, and northwest of the Solomons capital Honiara, the head of maritime Thierry Nervale told RNZ Pacific.

This is more than 100 kilometres from the Shortland Islands.

Nervale said her body has been transported to Taro Island by the police and medical team.

Assistant Police Commissioner National Operations Evelyn Thugea said a family member of the woman had identified the body.

Thugea said the relative had also confirmed the woman was among passengers missing at sea after a boat they were travelling in failed to reach its destination on 1 January.

“The dead body started to decompose but a tattoo written at the back and the upper left arm was still visible to identify the body,” Thugea said.

Nervale said two boatloads of people had left Gizo for Harapa in the Shortland Islands to attend a funeral.

Solomon Islands police boat.
Solomon Islands police boat. Photo: Royal Solomon Islands Police Force

One boat had drifted and reached Moli Island, Nervale said.

Among the 14 missing were children including a nine-year-old and a four-year-old.

“On their way, almost reaching the Shortland Islands they met very strong winds, the two boats then somehow separated but only one of the boats managed to navigate and arrive safely in Taro, on January 2,” he said.

Taro Police said a mobile phone belonging to one of the passengers in the missing boat was called, and it rang but no one answered it.

On attempts to track the whereabouts of the phone, they alerted telecommunications provider, Our Telekom, and were informed that the phone was detected within the Sasamunga or within south Choiseul range of Telekom’s mobile network.

“Villages along Sasamunga and south Choiseul were notified of any sightings of the boat or floating objects since police received the report of it missing, but there is still no sighting of anything,” said Sibere Tauroa of Taro Police.

Nervale said bad weather conditions had delayed the search and rescue efforts this morning but he added they would head out once the heavy rain and winds eased.

More to come….

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