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'Just want them home' - Families of Kiwis missing from livestock ship beg for Govt's help

The families of two Kiwis missing from the cattle ship which sank off the coast of Japan are pleading with the New Zealand Government to do more to search for their sons.

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Search efforts have been called off, but the men's relatives say there's still a chance of survival. Source: 1 NEWS

Lochie Bellerby and Scott Harris are among 40 men not found after the Gulf Livestock 1 sailed into a typhoon 10 days ago.

Japanese search efforts have been called off, but the men's relatives say there's still a chance of survival.

The two farm boys were taking on a new adventure, with keen traveller Lochie Bellerby leaping at the opportunity.

"He grew up on a farm so he's a born farmer. He's very adventurous," mum Lucy told 1 NEWS.

It led the 28-year-old to a spot onboard Gulf Livestock 1, which was transporting almost 6000 cows to China.

"His biggest joy was actually to meet people within working, to meet different cultures, to meet all the different communities. That's what really lit him up."

Lochie was hired as a stockman in charge of the animals' welfare.

His father, Guy, says they thought he was in the "safest place he could be". 

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Karen Adrian’s son Scott was one of two New Zealanders on board the ship when it sank. Source: 1 NEWS

It was also Scott Harris' maiden voyage. His mum, Karen Adrian, received regular messages from sea.

"He's a texter, constant contact, photos, playing cards with the other crew members, such a social kind of guy," she says.

But the ship hit a typhoon 10 days ago off the coast of Japan, reportedly losing an engine and capsizing.

"It was pretty hairy from what we can read, talking about 12-foot swells, listing to 30 degrees. He knew that they were going to a cyclone, a typhoon," Karen says.

"He was messaging us the conditions of the sea at the time though. Extremely rough and was also messaging the tilt of the boat was 35 degrees, that's side to side, that's quite significant, and even at the time I was quite surprised."

Like the Bellerbys, Karen hopes the 37-year-old from Palmerston North is still alive.

"It's a bit like the Pike River families. We know where they are, but they can't get to them," she says. 

"I believe... you can die from a broken heart, that's how deep it goes. It's mind-blowingly hard for all of us, we just want our sons home.

"The clock is ticking, and we still firmly believe our boys are in that lifeboat."

The search has now called off, with just three survivors found. One later died.

A maritime expert has given the Bellerbys hope, saying survivors could be in an area not covered by the Japanese coast guard.

This new information is driving the families to get the New Zealand Government to do more to help.

"We're in a really time-critical phase here," Lucy says.

"Any of those 40 crew members missing could either be out there on rafts or they're on an island, and they really need our help."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says our officials are looking into the possibility of searching for the ship's black box.

Mr Peters acknowledged such a mission could cost a lot, but he believes the families deserve to know what happened to Gulf Livestock 1.

"We all know what a tragedy this is. We can all deeply sympathise. These circumstances are out of our control. We will do our best to find as much as we can for them."

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The family of Lochie Bellerby say Peters' comments don't change their wish for a full-scale rescue operation to resume with a wider search area covered.

In a statement, Lochie's family said: "While there is still the possibility of survival of the 40 crew, in the presence of a warm summer climate, four un-accounted for life rafts, and many island shorelines in the area where the ship sank, the family agrees with Winston Peters today that 'it is only responsible to explore what might be possible', our focus should therefore remain firmly on rescue."

They say Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated she's "doing all she can to assist".

"If this were true, this would see her Government mandating the Minister of Foreign Affairs to work with the Japanese authorities to take all opportunities it can to search whilst rescue is still possible," the family says.

Their call echoes that of families of two Australians also missing.

"It's not just about the New Zealand and Aussie work boys on the ship... there are other families out there that have lost their whanau and they need to go home," Karen says.

"Just hang on. If anyone can do it, those boys can do it."