NATION

‘I’m Lucky I Didnt Get on The Ferry’

A 19-year-old Kiribati stu­dent of the University of the South Pacific (USP) is counting her lucky stars after the sinking of the Kiribati ferry MS Butiraoi last month. Mwaeelydia Tekabwebwere,
11 Feb 2018 11:00
‘I’m Lucky I Didnt Get on The Ferry’
Lucky to be alive...Mwaeelydia Tekabwebwere during memorial service at Kiribati High Commission in Fiji for the passengers of sunken ferry MS Butiraoa on February 10, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

A 19-year-old Kiribati stu­dent of the University of the South Pacific (USP) is counting her lucky stars after the sinking of the Kiribati ferry MS Butiraoi last month.

Mwaeelydia Tekabwebwere, of Tarawa, was expected the board the ferry on January 18 for a rou­tine two-day trip over 260 kilome­tres.

Ms Tekabwebwere said she was stopped by her mother who advised her that it was more important for her to get her visa sorted for her trip to Fiji.

“Before I came to Fiji, I was listed to go on that ferry, but my mother told me to get on the plane before the end of the week because of school and so I came to Fiji.”

She said it was after a week of her arrival when she was informed about the missing ferry.

“We found out the ferry had sunk. When a friend told me she didn’t know I had my relatives on board. I had a feeling it was my uncle and cousin brother,’’ Ms Tekabwebwere said.

“I was lucky. I felt happy I didn’t get on the ferry but at the same I was sad. I was broken inside. I was very sad.

“I had a feeling they were young and strong and they could survive. I don’t know what happened. I wish they didn’t get on that ferry.”

Meanwhile, Ms Mwaeelydia said the ferry is expected to have claimed at least 81 lives of which many were students.

The MS Butiraoi was carrying at least 88 passengers from the island of Nonouti to the township of Betio on the archipelago’s main island of Tarawa where it failed to arrive.

After days of not hearing any­thing from the 17.5m (57-foot) ves­sel, an international search effort got under way involving aircraft from New Zealand, Australia and the United States scanning the ocean for wreckage, debris and survivors.

A preliminary passenger docu­ment lists 14 children, 16 students and 58 adults. The vessel was de­signed for only about 25 passen­gers.

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

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