300 Plus Survivors.
More than 300 passengers and crew of the MV Francis Gerena were safely rescued and transported to Honiara at around 10 pm last night.
The local passenger vessel developed a number of problems including engine pump failure and overloading and sunk between Anuha Island and Bita’ama, North Malaita yesterday afternoon.
Police, the Maritime Safety unit, Red Cross, Medical officers and reps from other organisations were at the wharf to assist the survivors who arrived on four separate boats.
Upon arrival at Point Cruz wharf, a few were transported straight to the Central hospital for medical checks however, the majority were shifted to the Rove Police Club where they received additional attention.
Most of the survivors were released to be with their loved ones after all formalities were completed last night.
In a media conference late last night, Captain Tim Harris, the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration acting director says MV Francis Gerena was licensed to carry a maximum of 80 passengers but yesterday, it left Point Cruz wharf with more than 300 passengers, almost four times its legal capacity.
He adds, his officers had detained the boat but it escaped in the early hours and steamed off only to develop problems half way between Honiara and Malaita.
Meanwhile, Supervising acting Commissioner of Police, Walter Kola reiterated the need for boat owners to ensure their vessels are sea worthy at all times.
Mr Kola adds, passengers are equally responsible to comply with Maritime Safety regulations.