Six people - two 19-year-old men and girls ages 8, 9, 12 and 14 - have been missing in a 9-foot canoe in the South Pacific since Friday, but a New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center official says hopes are high of finding them.
The six were gathering palm fronds for roof thatching from an outrigger canoe when they drifted out of a lagoon off the Kiribati island of Tarawa on Friday, officials said in a Radio New Zealand report. They were towing a small dingy to carry the fronds.
Kevin Bamaghan of the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center, which provides rescue services in the South Pacific, told Radio Australia that the agency is confident the canoeists will be found.
"We've had a number of cases in recent months where children and young adults have been reported missing or overdue and with the assets that we employ ... we've managed to at this point have a good success rate in locating these sort of people," he told Radio Australia.
"... (T)he test models we use have been very accurate over the years," Bamaghan said. "It's just a matter of determining the initial start position and taking into account the ocean's current and the wind-driven current as to where they're most likely to be."
A New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion aircraft is conducting the search both visually and by radar, Bamaghan said. The search will continue at least into Tuesday, he said.
Bamaghan said searchers did not know what survival resources the canoeists had taken with them.
"We don't know what if any water or food supplies they've got on board. We do know that theyÂ ... collected some palm leaves to make some shelter and we sort of hope that they have got some sort of shelter and the weather conditions up there have been quite pleasant," he told Radio Australia.
Kiribati is about 2,800 miles northeast of New Zealand.