At least 28 ferry passengers have been swept overboard in a storm off Solomon Islands, local media reports revealed on Saturday, April 4, with the ship's Captain unaware he had lost anyone until the vessel docked. The travellers were heading from Honiara to West Are'are, 120+ km away, under a government program to evacuate people during the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The ship (MV Taimareho) departed Thursday night, April 2, as tropical cyclone Harold bore down on the Solomon Islands, and with weather forecasters warning against unnecessary voyages. The Captain ignored advice not to depart.
Image: Port of Honiara (Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands)
Survivors reported dozens had been swept overboard by strong winds and huge waves. According to local media, the death toll reached 28. However, police said it was impossible to verify the number.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sovagare, who addressed to the nation, said a search and rescue operation was underway.
Disaster authorities in the Solomon Islands, which have limited healthcare facilities, prepared for the impact of the new virus while the area was being battered by tropical cyclone Harold.
The Solomon Islands, with a population of around 600,000, is one of a dwindling number of countries where there have been no reported COVID-19 cases so far.
Harold, packing winds of up to 160 km/h damaged homes and downed trees before heading away and was expected to intensify prior to reaching Vanuatu late Sunday.
For Coronavirus updates on cruise ship quarantines (infected passengers and crew) and top-pandemic countries (COVID-19 cases and deaths, daily updated statistics) see at CruiseMapper's Norovirus page.