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  New Zealand launches search for ships missing in Cyclone Olaf

    jeudi 17 février 2005


New Zealand launches search for ships missing in Cyclone Olaf

A New Zealand Air Force Orion was expected in an area north of Samoa to begin a search for three fishing vessels, with a total of 18 men on board, which were hit by Cyclone Olaf.
One of the vessels is known to have sank about 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Samoa in what the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre of New Zealand described as "atrocious weather" and there are fears for the safety of the crew.
The six on board, who reported they had food, water and lifejackets, abandoned the vessel for a liferaft in 190kmh winds and 15 metre seas. Although Cyclone Olaf remained a threat in the South Pacific it had veered away from Samoa and conditions were beginning to ease, rescue centre coordinator Dave Wilson said.
"They are beginning to abate and that’s the reason for the timing of the Orion," he said.
"By the time it gets on the scene, the conditions should be much improved for a search and we will be able to get some surface vessels there to assist as well."
Wilson said the three vessels were part of a commercial fleet based in Apia, Western Samoa, and ranged in size from 15 metres to 25 metres. He said the two other vessels for which there were concerns did not radio through their positions at the scheduled time Wednesday and had not been heard from since.
All three boats had crews of six on board. Wilson said several emergency beacons had been activated in and some could be associated with the vessels known to be in distress.
Samoa and American Samoa declared a state of emergency as villagers braced for Cyclone Olaf and winds gusting over 220kmh.
A second, less powerful storm, Cyclone Nancy, had last night passed the Cook Islands, uprooting trees and damaging roofs.