The TONGA Police Force has launched a search and rescue operation outside the Malinoa coastal waters for 11 people including children from Fonoi Ha'apai who are still missing at sea since this morning.
Passengers boarded a 40 feet long white boat bounded for Fonoi and scheduled to arrive at 2am this morning.
However at 8:30am today, the Minister of Police, Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa says information from the MEIDECC coastal division, the missing fishing boat never made it to its destination on schedule time.
The Minister of Police reports that passengers on another fishing vessel say the missing boat went pass them outside the Malinoa coastal waters last evening, but upon arrival at its destination, it did not make it on time.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa says Tonga Police have also sought help from the New Zealand Air Force and aerial surveillance of the area have begun around 3pm today and will last for two hours.
Meanwhile Tonga’s patrol boat the Voea Ha’apai will join forces with the police rescue mission in searching for the missing boat at Malinoa coastal waters and also areas around Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai.
Earlier today Vava'u Noble number 2 Representative called on Government for a search and rescue mission to be carried out after receiving reports of the missing boat.
After lunch break, Lord Tu'ilakepa also thanked Government for their quick action about the plea he made to conduct search operation especially when children are among the missing persons at sea.
At the same time, police also urged the public to take precaution of the weather conditions before travelling at sea.