Rescuers have plucked more than 200 survivors from the sea off Papua New Guinea's east coast after a ferry sank Thursday with as many as 350 people on board, officials said.
An airplane from Australia, three helicopters and eight ships were scouring the search area after the MV Rabaul Queen went down while traveling from Kimbe on the island of New Britain to coastal town of Lae on the main island, Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement.
Local news reports said most of the passengers were students and trainee teachers.
The authority's dedicated search and rescue airplane based in the northern Australian city of Cairns had reached the scene by afternoon and another two Australian airplanes were on the way. All three carried life rafts that could be dropped to survivors in the water.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the cause of the sinking was unknown.
He said more than 300 people were aboard the ship, although the precise number had yet to be confirmed.
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