Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Rescuers Search for Dozens Missing in Indonesia Ferry Sinking

Rescuers Search for Dozens Missing in Indonesia Ferry Sinking

Tuesday, 19 June, 2018 - 11:15
Rescue teams search for victims at Lake Toba in North Sumatra on Tuesday. (AFP)

Dozens of passengers were still missing on Tuesday after their ferry capsized in Indonesia's Lake Toba.

Police said in a statement that 18 people were rescued and one body was recovered, unchanged from figures released by disaster and police officials after the ferry sank on Monday evening.

It released the names of 94 people confirmed as missing but said the figure was expected to rise as information from relatives is compiled.

About 130 people have been reported missing by relatives in the area but it was not clear if they were all on the vessel, authorities said.

Cellphone video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency showed the crew of another ferry attempting to rescue people struggling in the waters shortly after the sinking but being hampered by bad weather and rough waters.

Anguished relatives waited by the shore for news as several hundred personnel fanned out across the huge body of water on Sumatra island.

"Whether they were all passengers on the boat or not, we don’t know," transport ministry official Sri Hardianto told AFP. "We haven't found any new passengers today."

Budiawan, the head of the search and rescue agency in the nearby city of Medan, said the overcrowded boat was filled with an estimated 150 people and 55 motorbikes.

Officials are relying on reports from the families of victims and survivors to estimate the number of victims. Budiawan, who uses one name, said the vessel did not have a passenger manifest.

It was believed to be operating illegally. It was not clear if any foreigners were on board or what caused it to capsize.

Survivor Rahman Saputra said trouble started about halfway into the 40-minute trip from an island in the middle of the lake to shore.

"The waves started getting rough and the wind picked up. Then the boat started shaking," he told Kompas TV.

"Many passengers tried to get out but a lot were trapped inside the boat. Not long after that it capsized."

Among the grief-stricken relatives waiting by the shore was Juwita, a survivor who lost hold of her child in the confusion.

"It happened so quickly," she told TVOne. "I wanted to grab my child but I couldn't. There were three people stacked on top of him."

The search was called off Monday evening due to bad weather and low visibility, but it resumed Tuesday morning with about 350 personnel involved.

Hardianto said operations would continue for at least a week given the size of the search area.

The enormous lake fills the crater of a super-volcano that is believed to have erupted tens of thousands of years ago.

It is one of the deepest lakes in the world and covers some 1,145 square kilometers (440 square miles).

Maritime accidents are common in Indonesia, a 17,000-island archipelago nation where many depend on ferries and other boats to get around, despite lax safety standards.

Last week a traditional wooden boat with about 40 people capsized in the island of Sulawesi, killing more than a dozen people.

In 2015 a ferry sank near Sulawesi island and left 78 people dead.

Editor Picks