A SEA voyage to Suva to give birth turned into a nightmare for two women on board the MV Uluinabukelevu which ran aground near Oneata on Tuesday night.

The women, both seven months pregnant, were hurt when they jumped overboard when the incident happened about 10pm.

At least 100 passengers were on board the vessel that was on a routine trip through parts of the Lau Group.

Karalaini Qalo, 30, boarded the vessel from Tubou, Lakeba, and was on her way to Suva to await the delivery of her child.

She said the strong wind and rough seas were unsettling that night.

“The incident happened at around 10pm on Tuesday night,” Ms Qalo said in an interview.

“We were given life jackets and were told to remain calm. When the vessel ran aground, it was swaying to and fro before it tilted and rested on one side.”

In a moment of panic and sheer fright, Ms Qalo jumped overboard.

“I freaked out, the thought of dying and not being able to be with my husband and not being able to see my two children who are back in the village scared me,” she said.

She received minor injuries when her head hit the side of the vessel during the ordeal but was thankful to be alive.

Vilisi Masi, 20, who also boarded the vessel from Tubou, hurt herself after jumping overboard but her injury was not serious.

Meanwhile, headman of Waiqori Village on Oneata Alipate Waqarua said they only became aware when the crew alerted them about 11pm.

He said villagers managed to rescue the passengers from the stricken vessel using 11 punts.

Mr Waqarua confirmed some passengers sustained injuries but overall they were all in good health.

Waiqori Village nurse Sereima Wati confirmed yesterday 10 passengers were still admitted at the Oneata Health Centre.

Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said they received a report of the incident yesterday and would investigate the matter.

Owners of the MV Uluinabukelevu, Vanua Valesasa Transportation Company Ltd said arrangements were being made for the passengers from Oneata as well as to salvage the vessel from the reef.

“Our team will be there early tomorrow morning (today) to rescue the passengers,” manager Ilaitia Nailevu said.

Ministry of Transport deputy secretary Lui Naisara said an incident report had been received but he would not comment on the issue.

The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji could not be contacted for comments when this edition went to press.

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