Tourist Ferry Sinks in Indonesia, 192 Presumed Dead

The wooden boat was believed to be operating illegally, with no manifest or passenger tickets -- hampering efforts to estimate how many passengers may have been on board
AFP JON NST

Around 192 people are presumed dead after an overcrowded tourist ferry drowned in Indonesia on Tuesday in the province of North Sumatra.

The ferry, which has a maximum capacity of 43 people, was believed to have crammed over 200 people aboard for a 40-minute journey across Lake Toba.

However, high waves caused the boat to aggressively rock as the captain lost control of the rickety vessel. Within 20 minutes, the boat capsized before sinking. Many of the passengers on board were young families traveling back from Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

“When the boat started to list I jumped into the water and swam as far away as I could,” said Rudi Wibowo, one of the few survivors. “The passengers inside were unable to break the windows and escape.”

Rescue teams saved 18 people positioned on the vessel’s front decks within hours of the incident; rescue teams located three bodies.

Many of the passengers were unable to swim and the ship was equipped with an undersupply of life jackets on board. According to National Search and Rescue Agency chief Muhammad Syaugi, the boat was five times over its total capacity equipped with just 45 life jackets.

“Many survivors told authorities that less than half of them had jumped into the water before the boat sank,” he said in a news conference.

On Wednesday, authorities stepped up their search efforts to locate survivors by deploying divers and underwater drones, as well as the wreckage of the wooden ferry itself which sank to the bottom of the 450m (1,500ft)-deep lake.

“We now consider this a recovery effort rather than a search and rescue due to the amount of time that has elapsed since the sinking,” Indonesian National Board for Disaster official Wanda Ketaren said in a statement.

Families now anxiously await news from rescue agencies, although most believe that the remaining bodies are trapped inside the vessel.

“This is a test from God for our family,” Fajar Alamsyah Putra, whose brother is one of the missing, told BBC News. “Only God knows if he is safe or not.”

“He was inside the ferry when the ship sank and could not get out, the ferry quickly capsized,” he continued. “A friend of his was on the deck and was able to jump off in time to get help from another passing ferry.”

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