A New Zealand air force plane is on its way to Kiribati to join the hunt for three missing fisherman.
The men have are now three days overdue from a fishing trip. They are believed to be in a 6m boat south of Kiribati’s Tarawa Island, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand said today.
The Orion took off from Whenuapai airport this morning to begin searching and should arrive in the area early afternoon.
As they left the base, there were also fears for a damaged British yacht heading from Fiji to Noumea, New Calednoia.
The 38ft catamaran Troutbridge, with one male sailor aboard, lost contact with the yacht accompanying it following a storm on Thursday night.
However, en route to Kiribati, the Orion made contact with the skipper of the Troutbridge, who reported that while the catamaran had sustained hull and rig damage and was leaking, pumps on board were working effectively and he was proceeding to Nouméa. The voyage could take up to a week.
RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Mike Roberts said it was a great outcome to establish contact with the skipper.
''Now we’re also hoping for a positive result in the search for the fishermen off Kiribati,'' Roberts said.
''We've determined a search area of approximately 21,000 square kilometres which will be the focus of the aircraft’s search efforts this afternoon.''