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Stories From Kiribati


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Ocean Accident - Uean Te Raoi (1)

Posted by Amota Eromanga on October 4, 2012 at 10:50 PM


Uean Te Raoi

On Monday 13th July 2009, the ferry (double-hulled wooden catamaran) called ‘Uean Te Raoi’ made her journey from Tarawa to Maiana island. This ferry of about 17meters was indeed owned and run by the Catholic Paris on Maiana. Like other wooden ferries of the type, Uean Te Raoi had become one of the popular marine transports for people and light cargo mainly between these two islands. Unfortunately, the Uean Te Raoi did not reach her destination due to the tragic accident she came upon out there in the ocean - about 7 kilometers north of Maiana.

As at the time of this story, it was confirmed that there were about 55 passengers involved in the accident. From that number, 38 passengers had been found - 16 alive and the rest confirmed dead. The search for the remaining 17 passengers is still being conducted.

Here's the detailed story of the accident told by one of the survivors:

The survivor (who told the story) was a woman who came to Tarawa to do some fundraising activities - selling handicrafts. After spending more than two weeks on Tarawa she planned to go back to Maiana. That was how she came to be one of the passengers involved in that trip.

Her story:

I was the very last person to get onto the ferry and because the back seemed crowded, I tried to find my way up to the front. There I found a place to sit. Looking around, I realized that the ferry was really crowded with passengers. There wasn’t much space around. Minutes later, the ferry started leaving Bairiki Wharf for Maiana.

The day was really fine. As we reached the ocean, I then realized that the man who was in charge of this trip was not really the captain. He looked younger than the man who used to be the captain of this ferry. The feeling of fear rose up in me but as I looked at passengers, they were happy and excited certainly because the sea was very calm. They began singing happily and they never seemed to stop until we got closer to Maiana.

After hours, everyone could see in the distance, the white beach of our destination. Those beside me confirmed that the name of the closest part of the island we could see now was Onobubua. But all of a sudden the passengers at the back of the ferry shouted, “Somebody fell into the sea!”

Then others saying, “Throw him the rope!” But the rope wouldn’t help so the captain slowly turned the ferry around to pick him up. When the man had got safely onto the ferry (from the outrigger side), the captain asked if everything was alright. The passengers at the back said yes, so our trip continued.

I had no idea why that man could have fallen into the sea as he was among passengers at the back and I was quite far - at the front. But as I said before, passengers were still singing and it was louder from those at the back. I only thought that the man involved (fell) was among those singing happily.

Not long (few minutes) after that, I then heard some people shouting again. This time it was about the outrigger that went up. All of a sudden and like a flash, everyone was right down into the sea. The ferry had really capsized … and we were now in water.

Next part : Ocean Accident – Uean Te Raoi (2)

Categories: True Stories