Indonesia ferry accident: Nearly 80 still missing
NEARLY 80 people were still missing yesterday after a ferry ran into trouble on Saturday in rough seas off the coast of Indonesia's Sulawesi, with authorities not ruling out the possibility of a sinking.
The Transport Ministry has confirmed three people, including two children, have been found dead while 39 others were rescued from the water yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported.
The whereabouts of the remaining 76 people is still unclear, with search and rescue teams hampered by rough conditions, waves up to 5m high and dwindling daylight.
KM Marina Baru 02B had left North Kolaka in South-east Sulawesi on Saturday morning for a six-hour journey across the Bay of Boni to Wajo in the island's south-west, reported BBC Indonesia.
The bow of the ship sank first after it began to take on water some 20km south-east of Wajo's Siwa port, Roki Asikin, head of the search and rescue agency in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi, told China's official Xinhua news agency yesterday.
"Besides, the boat was also suffering from engine failure," said Mr Asikin.
Six rescue ships and boats were sent from Kendari and Makassar after the rescue agency received a distress call from the crew, Mr Asikin added.
One search vessel found 19 people alive yesterday morning in the choppy sea but two bodies were also retrieved.
"Two children died," Transport Ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said.
Four others - two men, a woman and a young boy - were found clinging to buoys by passing fishermen earlier yesterday and taken to hospital in Siwa.
Another 16 were later also rescued.
Rough conditions hampered earlier efforts to locate the stricken vessel with 89 adults, 19 children and 10 crew members aboard.
Mr Asikin said powerful waves meant it took three hours to evacuate the survivors to shore.
"These waves were very high," he said.
Three ships were deployed to find the missing ferry, which police said was still afloat with a broken engine but out of radio contact.
The Bay of Boni is known for its extreme weather and frequent ship accidents but it remains the main sea crossing between the two southern peninsular arms of Sulawesi, reported the Pojok Sulsel news website based in south Sulawesi.
Just last week, a Danish cargo ship collided with a tanker and sank in Indonesia's west, with some crew still missing.