Papua New Guinea ferry sinking leaves scores missing (VIDEO)


More than 200 survivors of a ferry sinking off Papua New Guinea have been rescued and three helicopters, several merchant ships and an airplane from Australia were reportedly scouring the area for at least 100 more.

As many as 350 people were on board the MV Rabaul Queen, which sank 16 miles offshore between Papua New Guinea's main island and an outlying island, the Associated Press reported, citing the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Australia's ABC News reported that ferry operator Rabaul Shipping said it had lost contact with the vessel early Thursday morning.

ABC quoted police in Kimbe, where the ferry sailed from, as saying most of the passengers were students and trainee teachers.

Kimbe, also a popular dive site that attracts international tourists, is serviced by regular ferries.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters that there would probably be a "very high loss of life," Bloomberg reported.

Australia, the Pacific nation's closest neighbor, was reportedly organizing more help for the rescue effort, sending search and rescue Dornier aircraft equipped with life rafts and supplies it can drop to survivors in the water.

PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill said there would be an investigation into the incident, the ABC reported.

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