New Zealand plane searching for 29 missing Taiwanese seamen

Other News Materials 20 November 2008 06:55 (UTC +04:00)

A Royal New Zealand Air Force plane has begun a search for 29 missing Taiwanese fishermen after their burned out boat was found floating in the South Pacific, a Defence Force statement said on Thursday, dpa reported.

The Orion maritime surveillance aircraft will spend the next three days searching nearly 39,000 square kilometres of ocean for the men believed to have abandoned their vessel on three life rafts, a spokesman said.

New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre was alerted after a Korean fishing boat found the Taiwanese long liner floating but with no one on board.

"A subsequent search of the vessel showed the three life rafts and a rescue boat were missing and it is hoped that the 29 crew abandoned ship in the life rafts," the spokesman said.

RNZAF Air Commodore Gavin Howse said the Orion left New Zealand Wednesday and is searching an area calculated by the air force and the RCC.

He said nothing had been heard from the Taiwanese ship, which was not named, since October 28.