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Rescue Of Stalled Ship Three Days Away

September 3, 1995

SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ A ship disabled on its way to the protest at France’s nuclear test site drifted in the South Pacific Sunday with 70 people on board, including lawmakers from several nations.

The 152-foot, Fiji-owned Kaunitoni was about 400 miles east of Rarotonga, in New Zealand’s Cook Islands, protest organizer Stuart Huggett, said Sunday.

A rescue boat was on the way but was not expected to reach the ship before late Wednesday. However with seas calm, the ship was in no immediate danger, Huggett said from Suva, about 600 miles west of Cook Islands.

The ship’s engines first shut down Thursday night. The crew got them running but within six hours the engines had shut down again, a Fiji senator leading the protest, Adi Finau Tabakaucoro, said by telephone from the boat.

``The engine’s completely gone,″ she said. ``We have a derelict ship floating in the middle of the Pacific ocean.″

``We have been fortunate the weather is good, but some people are agitated and distressed,″ she said.

In addition to 25 crew, the ship was carrying 45 passengers of 12 nationalities. They included lawmakers from Fiji, Germany and Belgium as well as journalists from Australia, Japan and European nations.

A Cook Islands patrol boat was being sent from French Polynesia. But it would not reach the Kaunitoni before late Wednesday. If its engine can not be repaired by then, the stricken vessel will be towed to Rarotonga.

Huggett said a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane may drop spare parts to the Kaunitoni on Monday. He said there was no danger of the ship running out of food or fuel soon.

The ship is about 200 miles west of its destination, the Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia where France plans to explode seven or eight nuclear warheads some time between now and May. Opponents of nuclear testing have gathered on ships in the area.

The Kaunitoni, an inter-island trade boat chartered from the Fiji government company Natco, sailed from Suva on Aug. 23 after a last-minute scramble for engine spares and with a record of mishaps.

Referred to by some detractors as a ``reef-finder,″ the Kaunitoni ran aground among Fiji’s islands in 1986, twice in 1993, and in March this year.

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