POLITICS

Scaled-down search for missing Canadian bushwalker to resume Friday

05/30/2013 04:03 EDT | Updated 07/29/2013 05:12 EDT
SYDNEY - Australian police say they will resume a scaled-down search Friday for a Canadian hiker who has been missing in the Kosciuszko National Park for more than two weeks.

Prabhdeep Srawn, 25, has been missing since May 13, when he went for a bushwalk in the park in New South Wales.

Police began a search for him May 20, but the operation was scaled back earlier this week as officials determined that the chance of finding the Brampton, Ont., man alive had decreased.

New South Wales Police said in an email Thursday that bad weather had hampered Thursday's search.

The search involved a helicopter and nine officers, down from 15 on Wednesday.

The force had said Tuesday that the search would only continue for two more days, but on Thursday it said the operation would resume Friday morning.

"The Command Post at the National Parks and Wildlife Services building was closed following today's search. The operation will now be run from Jindabyne police station. It will be managed on a local level, with local resources," the statement said.

Srawn's family has said it will continue the rescue effort when the official search ends.

The Australian media quoted family members as saying that they will hire helicopters, a canine team and private search parties to continue looking for Srawn.

They have also reinstated a reward of $15,000 for any volunteer who finds the Canadian military reservist.

Srawn's family and supporters still believe he will be found alive because he has had extensive survivor training and hiking experience.

"If the police do give up, it's going to be us out there next, we're going to have to make our own search plan. That's what we're working on now," his cousin Rajveer Srawn was quoted as telling Fairfax Media on Wednesday.

"We've had a lot of people approach us: experts in the mountains, a reservist from Canada, reservists in the Australian army, that are willing to come, and on their own free will."

Diane Ablonczy, the minister of state for consular affairs, met with Srawn's family Thursday morning and indicated she has spoken with both Australia's foreign minister and High Commissioner to Canada.

"We understand that the Australians must make their own decisions about their resources, but we will continue to engage the Australian government on the family's behalf," said Joshua Zanin, a spokesman for the minister.