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    Dec 01, 2015

    Her life raft was sinking in the rain

    SHE had gone to Batam with a group of friends for a day trip and was settling in for the ride back to Singapore when the ferry hit an object in the water.

    Housewife Wong Meilan, 62, was one of 97 passengers on board the Indonesia-registered ferry, Sea Prince, on Sunday night.

    "We were just 10 minutes out (from the Nongsapura Ferry Terminal) when boom, we hit something," Madam Wong told My Paper yesterday. "I screamed. People started running, it was so messy."

    According to Madam Wong, passengers were told to put on life vests and wait, which they did for about an hour.

    She had hoped a rescue boat would be dispatched from Indonesia, which was "very near". When none came, crew members began lowering passengers into inflatable life rafts.

    "We had to squeeze in and I saw only two rafts. Some people said there were up to 50 people in each raft, which was over the capacity," said Madam Wong in Mandarin.

    She added that the ropes securing the life rafts to the ferry looked like they were about to snap at any moment.

    "Someone screamed that the ropes were going to snap, so the crew members replaced them with thicker ones," she said before bursting into tears over the phone.

    "There were holes in the life rafts and water kept coming in. I had to half-squat and the water reached up to my neck. I was so scared," she recalled.

    As it was raining, it was difficult to climb out of the sinking rafts, added Madam Wong, who had lost her passport in the ordeal.

    The passengers were later rescued by fishing boats and sent back to Nongsapura Ferry Terminal to take another ferry to Singapore. Madam Wong reached home only at 1.30am yesterday.

    Said Madam Wong: "I just hope that they will ramp up their safety measures. Nobody died this time but if it happens again, I don't know if it will be so lucky."