18 August 2009
Further Support to Tongan Relief Effort
Australia will contribute $100,000 to the Tonga Red Cross to support survivors and victims’ families of the Tongan ferry tragedy.
Australia’s commitment will support the Red Cross’s counselling services to survivors and victims’ families, and be used to replenish their emergency supplies so they can respond effectively to any future emergencies.
The inter-island passenger ferry Princess Ashika sank off the Tongan coast on Wednesday 5 August 2009. Of the 149 passengers believed to be aboard, only 54 survivors have been found. Two bodies were recovered and 93 people remain unaccounted for.
The Princess Ashika ferry was providing inter-island passenger services until a new ferry, donated by Japan, arrives in 2010.
The ferry has now been located by the combined Tonga, Australia and New Zealand search teams. The vessel is in an upright position at a depth of 110 metres. However, at that depth, recovery will be difficult.
Australia and New Zealand are currently working with the Government of Tonga to help re-establish vital transport links between the islands.
Australia and New Zealand are also working with regional organisations and national authorities to improve maritime transport safety in the region as committed to at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Cairns.
Australia will continue to support the Government and the people of Tonga in the wake of these tragic events.
- Mr Smith's office 02 6277 7500
- Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555