Five people were killed while 22 more have gone missing after a passenger vessel headed out to sea in apparent defiance of cyclone warnings issued by local authorities in the Solomon Islands.
The inter-island ferry Taimareho left the capital of Honiara on the night (local time) of Thursday, April 2, and sailed for Malaita with over 60 people on board.
The ferry had reportedly sailed even after the local meteorological agency and harbour authorities warned that the route would be beset by heavy winds and rain caused by Tropical Cyclone Harold.
Early in the morning of Friday, Taimareho encountered rough waves which had swept some of the passengers overboard.
Local news outlets say the vessel reached its final destination of Malaita with the captain apparently unaware that some of the passengers had been thrown overboard during the voyage.
Search and rescue (SAR) teams that were later despatched to the area where the rough waves were encountered managed to pull some passengers out of the water despite the poor visibility.
The SAR teams have also thus far recovered the bodies of five passengers from the water. Three of the bodies could not be identified as they were reportedly in an advanced state of decomposition.
The search for Taimareho‘s missing passengers has since expanded to cover an area of over 1,000 square kilometres and was still ongoing as of 21:00 UTC on Sunday.
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