PNG ferry with some 350 aboard believed sunk

A ferry is believed to have sunk in bad weather off Papua New Guinea with as many as 350 people on board, its operator said on Wednesday, adding that Australian rescuers were at the scene.

Star Ships said it lost contact with the MV Rabaul Queen at about 6 am on Thursday (2000 GMT Wednesday) while travelling between Kimbe and Lae in the east of the Pacific nation.

"Bad weather, I think (it is) believed to have sunk," Star Ships spokesman John Whitney told AFP, confirming reports that there were up to 350 on board.

"(There are) survivors. At the moment rescuers from Australia are at the site. No fatalities have been reported yet."

Australian Associated Press cited PNG's National Maritime Safety Authority as saying the ship sent a distress signal early Thursday.

"The reports have come back on that, we're getting reports," a spokesperson said without elaborating.

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