Kiribati confirm more than 80 were on board sunken ferry

Authorities in Kiribati have confirmed that around 80 passengers and about five crew members were on board the ferry Butiraoi that sank a fortnight ago.

The Kiribati government is being heavily criticised by the public for failing to report the boat missing a week after it was scheduled to arrive in the capital Tarawa from the island of Nonouti.

For the last four days a New Zealand P3 Orion has been searching an area of ocean larger than 300,000 square kilometres.

Seven survivors were rescued on January 28 and the search continues for a life raft that was launched from the sinking ferry.

RCCNZ Watch Leader, Neville Blakemore, said an RNZAF P-3 Orion had been searching for four days and its crew are resting today and doing any necessary work on the aircraft.

Mr Blakemore said three further aircraft, from the RAAF, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the United States Coast Guard, joined the search more recently and were continuing today.

'We will search until we find them' - Kiribati Search & Rescue

Search and rescue authorities in Kiribati say they will not stop searching until they find the last liferaft from the missing ferry, MV Butiraoi.

Seven people have been found out of an estimated 100, many of them believed to be school children, onboard the ferry when it sank nearly two weeks ago.

A local MP from the island of Nonouti no-nou-see, the ferry's last port of call, said his people are devastated and demanding answers.

Kiribati Search and Rescue said three local vessels were continuing the search today scouring the east, west and south of Tarawa, after coming up empty handed in other areas on Tuesday.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Nadi said, so far, only debris had been spotted by the supporting aircraft.

Earlier the Kiribati president had said the vessel was unseaworthy, sparking public outrage about the state of the vessel and also about the revelation the vessel was only reported missing six days after it was scheduled to arrive in the capital of Tarawa.