The Premier of Malaita claims rescue operation to find the 16 people missing after a boat capsized off Gudalacanal last week was delayed because there was “no money” to mount a rescue operation.
Peter Ramohia has told a visiting journalist from Australia’s Fairfax Media that he contacted the national rescue centre after finding out about the incident late on Wednesday. He said he was told a helicopter search was put off because of an issue over payment to the helicopter company.
Fairfax Media reported the first rescues were not made until late the Thursday morning by private vessels that had set off from Malaita and Guadalcanal.
There were 23 people on the boat, five bodies so far been recovered and 11 are still missing. Seven people were rescued.
Fairfax reported that among the dead are five members of Maunitee family, including both parents, Aloisio and Anna. They had left one child at home in the care of extended family.
According to then report, one surviving woman, Stivesen Osiabu, swam for hours with a small group including her daughter, Dalzinia, after tearing up the boat’s single life jacket to share it among three girls. Dalzinia died in the arms of the group on Wednesday night and when Stivesen was rescued on Thursday, she was found with her daughter’s body tied to her waist so she would not be lost at sea. The body of Dalzinia’s father has yet to be found.
Dalzinia’s was the single body present at a funeral held at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Honiara, on Monday afternoon, where the other dead and missing were represented by candles.
The search continues today.