Indonesia Ends Search for Victims of Ferry Accident Off Sulawesi

BenarNews Staff
151229-ID-ferry-update-620 An Indonesian police officer looks at body bags holding victims of the Dec. 19 ferry accident near Sulawesi island, Dec. 24, 2015.

Indonesian officials on Tuesday called off their search for people missing from the sinking of a ferry near Sulawesi on Dec. 19, even though a dozen were still unaccounted for, according to news reports.

Authorities listed the death toll at 78. The number includes the 12 who were still missing and presumed dead, and 66 recovered bodies.

The boat sank 22.5 km (24 miles) off the coast of Wajo district in South Sulawesi, after it reportedly encountered rough conditions at sea and sent out a distress signal.

Forty people survived the sinking of the fiberglass boat New Marina, which carried 118 passengers and crew members as it crossed the bay from Kolaka, in Southeast Sulawesi province to Siwa, in South Sulawesi province.

“We have not found anyone today and there has been no sign we will find anyone else, so the operation has been officially called off,” search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told Agence-France Presse.

The agency has asked fishermen and sailors to notify authorities if they find any more people, he said.

Shortly after the boat sank, a local fisherman rescued four people who were lost at sea, including a boy.

Fisherman Amiruddin told reporters that he heard a woman crying for help at around 2 a.m. on Dec. 19 while he was fishing on Bone Bay.

“I went to where the voice came from and I saw a woman laying on her back in her safety float with a little boy on the top of her. I directly helped them and took them to my boat,” Amiruddin said.

The disaster was at least the third maritime accident reported since mid-November in or near Indonesian waters.

Two days earlier, six Philippine crew members of a Danish cargo ship were declared missing after it collided with a chemical tanker about 13 km (8 miles) off Batam island in western Indonesia.

On Nov. 16, more than 100 passengers were evacuated safely or rescued from the ship Wihan Sejahtera in Lamong Bay, in Surabaya.

The death toll from the Dec. 19 accident eclipsed the number of fatalities reported in early September, when a boat bound from Malaysia to Aceh province sank off the Malaysian coast. Sixty-four people died in that accident.


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