Chuuk Supply Boat Found By Japanese Fishing Vessel

by Scott Radway

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News): July 24, 2002 - An 18-foot skiff loaded with supplies for a storm-torn outer island in Chuuk was found by a Japanese fishing vessel six days after it motored out from the state capital, U.S. Coast Guard officials reported yesterday.

Five adults and two children were found Sunday aboard the boat, which had run out of gas and drifted about 40 miles east of its destination, Murilo Atoll, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Mike Munoz.

A 2-year-old girl had to be taken to the state hospital in Weno, the state capital, for dehydration, Munoz said. The others were taken to Murilo Atoll. Officials did not know why the children were aboard the supply skiff, nor the age of the other child.


The trip from Weno to the northern atoll takes four to five hours, Munoz said. The boat left July 16 and was reported missing to the Coast Guard July 19. Plane searches ensued, but were severely hampered by inclement weather, Munoz said.

"They probably had barely enough gas to get across," said Bruce Best, manager of the University of Guam's PEACE Satellite radio network.

Best, who helped coordinate the rescue effort, said the outer islanders have little money for things such as extra fuel.

The lost boat follows Chuuk State being slammed July 2 by then-Tropical Storm Chata'an, which brought massive rains and caused some 30 mudslides on islands within the state's main lagoon, where most people live. In all, 47 people died, dozens were injured and more than 1,000 left homeless.

Outer island officials have not reported any deaths, but have said there are severe supply shortages. Outer islanders depend almost exclusively on subsistence farming and fishing, Best explained. Their food stores were wiped out by the storm.

"They were probably desperate to bring back supplies," Best said.