The Kiribati government has suspended aerial searches for survivors of the sunken ferry MV Butiraoi, Maritime New Zealand informed.
Four search aircraft from New Zealand, Australia and the United States will return to their countries, Kevin Banaghan, Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) Acting Manager, said.
However, Kiribati vessels plan to continue searching.
The interisland ferry left Nonouti Atoll for a two-day, 250-kilometer trip to Betio, the township of Kiribati’s capital city, South Tarawa, carrying 88 passengers and crew. The 17-meter wooden catamaran failed to arrive on January 20, sparking the search.
On January 25, Kiribati authorities were advised the ferry was missing, and they then contacted Rescue Coordination Centre Nadi in Fijin which led the search operation.
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand joined the search by providing an aircraft.
The aircraft were also provided by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the United States Coast Guard (USCG).
RNZAF found a five-meter dinghy adrift in the Pacific Ocean with seven survivors on board on January 28.
Earlier, local authorities said the boat ran aground and underwent repairs to its propeller shaft before it left Nonouti Island.