Relatives and friends of ferry passengers waited in Lae to discover the fate of their relatives on Thursday [Reuters]

A day after rescuing nearly 250 survivors from a capsized ferry, crews searching for more than 110 other people have come up empty off Papua New Guinea's eastern coast.

The Rabaul Queen sank on Thursday in rough seas, and big waves and strong winds continued to make rescue efforts difficult on Friday.

Many of the missing may still be in the vessel, now at the bottom of the sea.

But Captain Nurur Rahman, rescue co-ordinator for Papua New Guinea's National Maritime Safety Authority, said he had not given up hope of finding more survivors.

"I do not presume them to be dead yet," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Captain Rahman said the sea temperature was above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) - warm enough for people to survive for an extended period - but there were no reports of more survivors by late Friday, and no bodies had been found.

"We need to bring some safety measures back into this industry," Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill told reporters.

Trapped inside

Rony Naigu, a National Maritime Safety Authority official, told ABC that about 100 people were thought to have been trapped inside when the ship was hit by three large waves and sank.

"The sea was really rough, windy, big waves. The boat tilted once, then twice, then three times and it went over," said Alice Kakamara, who was recovering in a Lea hospital Friday after inhaling toxins during the sinking.

"There was oil everywhere," she said.

Kakamara said she might not have survived had she not been with her 11-year-old nephew, who urged her not to give up.

They found a lifeboat, but it too was sinking. She said she put the boy on another boat and later heard from relatives that he is fine.

Survivors and loved ones

The survivors were delivered to Lae, the South Pacific country's second-largest city, by five ships early on Friday, said the AMSA, which is assisting Papua New Guinea authorities with the rescue.

An angry crowd threw stones at the Kimbe office of the Rabaul Shipping Company, which owned the ferry, on Thursday night, police said.

"There were a lot of people crying and then they wanted to know the fate of their loved ones, the people actually who were on board," Kimbe Police Inspector Samson Siguyaru told ABC.

"I had to send in the police to rescue (staff and), get them out of the office to a location where it is safe," he added.

A police official said most of those aboard the vessel at the time of the accident were students.

Source: Agencies