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Tragic end to urgent search for three missing fishermen who disappeared while chasing bluefin tuna

Three fishermen who reportedly got lost while hunting bluefin tuna have been found dead in New Zealand.

Three bodies were found on the coast at Mahia, south of Gisborne on the east coast of North Island, on Wednesday morning.

A woman claimed that one of the missing men was Elwood Higgins New Zealand herald reported.

Claiming she was a relative of Mr Higgins, she posted a heartbreaking message on social media on Monday in the hope he would be found.

‘Come on my brother, [I am] Here she breaks into pieces as she listens to the storm brewing. I feel so exhausted, scared and helpless,” she wrote.

‘[I have] I’ve been through enough heartbreak for this lifetime. Go home and take your friends home too.”

The group went missing on Monday, prompting a rescue effort by the coast guard and defense force, among others, which was hampered by treacherous weather.

According to Maritime NZ, two people were seen in the water on Tuesday afternoon by a cargo ship, which said “they were unable to rescue them due to dangerously difficult weather conditions”.

“The ship attempted to provide the men with all available rescue equipment they could throw overboard, including life rings and wreckage,” said Justin Allan, general manager of the Rescue Coordination Center.

Amid six-metre swells and 50-knot wind gusts, an NZDF P-8A Poseidon dropped a life raft into the sea in that area later on Tuesday afternoon before the search was suspended at nightfall.

Police announced the discovery of the bodies on Wednesday.

“Formal identification is still ongoing, but it is believed that they are the fishermen reported missing on Monday,” a statement said.

Roger Faber, president of the Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club, said the fishermen were part of a group, including himself, who left on Monday in anticipation of better weather.

“We caught some nice bluefin tuna off Gisborne this weekend,” he told Radio NZ.

“The forecast was for force five winds all day, it was definitely a good weather window… a few guys went fishing and we all communicated with each other.”

‘Unfortunately the weather was not at all as predicted. We expected it to get better, but it didn’t get better, it got worse.

“We attempted to contact the missing boat… when we returned to the boat ramp and discovered their trailer was still there, our concerns increased and we raised the alarm.”

Mr Faber said the trio were all club members, experienced at sea, well known and respected.

The fisherman's bodies were found on the coast at Mahia (pictured), south of Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island.

The fisherman’s bodies were found on the coast at Mahia (pictured), south of Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

“The whole community, whanau and friends are all suffering greatly from this news… it was the worst thing that could have happened,” he said.

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The storm has swamped the Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Tairawhiti regions, prompting evacuations in some coastal towns.

A number of highways in the region have been closed due to flooding and slips, including the main SH35 route, while crews are also battling to restore power to a range of areas.

The same region was hardest hit by Cyclone Gabrielle last February, which killed nine people due to widespread damage to property and infrastructure.



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