The NZ Defence Force has found a dinghy with seven people onboard while searching for a missing ferry in Kiribati which was carrying about 50 people.
The New Zealand Airforce Orion this morning located a 4-5 metre dinghy in the search area with seven people onboard and had dropped a package with water and a radio to them.
The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand confirmed a fishing vessel had been diverted to pick up the people found adrift in a dinghy at about 10am today.
Senior search and rescue officer John Ashby said the people onboard were relieved to be found and the fishing boat was due to rescue them mid-afternoon on Sunday.
The Orion is hovering overhead until the fishing boat arrives.
Ashby said the dinghy appeared to be one of the two onboard the 17m inter-island ferry.
The MV Butiraoi, a 17.5m wooden catamaran, departed Nonouiti Island, Kiribati on January 18 and the journey to Betio Tarawa was expected to take two days.
The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand was asked to carry out an aerial search on Thursday after the ferry was reported being almost a week overdue.
The Airforce Orion was in its second day of helping with the search when it discovered the dinghy. The Fiji Search and Rescue was co-ordinating the search also involving Air Kiribati and local vessels.
The search for other survivors will continue this afternoon with the earmarked search area estimated to be about the size of New Zealand.