22 school children were among the 88 people in a ferry that has been missing for two weeks.

The Kiribati ferry believed to have sunk in the Pacific after departing from the remote Nonouti Island bound for the capital city Tarawa in the Australian continent.

Earlier on Monday, President Taneti Maamau said the 17-metre-catamaran, MV Butiraoi, was carrying 100 passengers. 

Maamau said the number was revised after Nonouti officials sought details from those with family on the ferry, confirming that 88 people 45 male and 43 female had boarded.

Maritime New Zealand said the 22 children from the island of 2,000 people include 10 primary school students and 12 high school students.

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Maritime authority said the children were on their way to start a new term in Tarawa, according to Radio New Zealand.

A 14-year-old girl was among the seven survivors rescued from the Pacific Ocean on Sunday by New Zealand’s air force.

The group had been drifting in an unpowered wooden dinghy without water, food or radio.

Kiribati Island
Kiribati consists of 32 atolls and one island

Local media have reported that the ferry had no emergency rescue equipment or locator beacon.

It also had a recent history of mechanical problems and had just been repaired before going missing.

Locals in Tarawa and Nonouti have criticised the government for taking too long to call on Fiji and New Zealand to assist with the search.

Ieremia Tabai, a Nonouti parliamentarian, slammed the vessel as “unseaworthy,” saying the government should have stopped it sailing.

He said his people were devastated and wanted answers, Radio New Zealand reported on Thursday.

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Tearinibeia Enoo Teabo, a spokesperson for the president, has said previously that the vessel had a certificate of seaworthiness but had been ordered by maritime authorities not to carry any passengers after sustaining serious damages to its navigational system, rudders and hull.

On Wednesday night, Maamau gave his second public address since the incident, promising to conduct a full investigation.

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