Rescuers seek for Kiribati ferry with 50 folks on board

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Seven survivors from a ferry that went missing in the Pacific Ocean a week ago have been found adrift in a dinghy.

The missing ferry, which had 50 passengers on board, was due to arrive in Betio, the country's captial, on January 20 after departing Nonouiti Island.

"The crew has dropped them aid supplies containing water, food and a radio and are now trying to establish communication with them", Air Commodore Webb said.

"I'm sure ideally it would be great to get them to shore as soon as we can, but I guess they're balancing off the needs of further survivors which may be in the search area".

A search will continue for other survivors, she said, with aircraft returning at first light Monday, and the fishing vessel, the FV Lomalo, to stay on station overnight.

Webb added that while there was a lot of debris near the dinghy, there was no sign of anyone else being still alive.

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"The crew has dropped them aid supplies containing water, food and a radio and are trying to establish communication with them". New Zealand rescuers say they weren't told about the missing boat until Friday, eight days after the ferry had left.

A plane from New Zealand left to join the search early this morning, as personnel from Fiji and New Zealand look for a vessel with a dark blue hull and yellow accommodation quarters.

Mr Ashby said the dinghy was understood to be one of two carried on the missing ferry, MV Butiraoi, and was located within a search area in the Pacific as large as New Zealand in size.

The ferry is described as having a dark blue hull and yellow cabin fixed on top.

The vessel had undergone repairs to its propeller shaft just before the journey.

"Search and rescue officer with the RCCNZ, John Ashby, said: "[We're] doing everything we can to locate this ferry and its passengers.