Up to 180 feared dead or missing in Indonesian ferry disaster

Elias Hubbard
June 20, 2018

Relatives weep at Tigaras port after learning that their family members are among the passengers of a ferry which sank on Monday, in Simalungun, North Sumatera, Indonesia, Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a search and rescue team rescued 20 people and retrieved two bodies.

The traditional wooden boat which sank Monday on Sumatra's Lake Toba, a popular tourist destination, was thought to be operating illegally with no manifest or passenger tickets.

The situation has sparked confusion - and different estimates from various agencies - about the number of people on board.

"We're disappointed because there were too many passengers for the (ship's) capacity". He said original estimates for the number missing was at least 70, but it was hard to know without a manifest.

Authorities have been relying on families who have reported that missing relatives may have been on the doomed vessel.

Officials say more than half a dozen vessels and 350 people including search and rescue personnel, police, soldiers and fishermen are involved in the search.

Only 18 survivors have been found - in bad weather within hours of the sinking Monday evening. "And after the accident they're not able to find the victims", Suwarni, who uses only one name, told AP news agency.

Santika, 28, was in tears as she awaited news of her cousin and the latter's fiance who were on the ferry, returning from a holiday before the couple's wedding, planned for next week. "Please bring back my son".

A team of 25 divers, including marines, were searching for the vessel, along with a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), though that can only operate up to a depth of 380 metres, he said.

President Joko Widodo's government has made Lake Toba one of four priority tourism-development areas with a goal of drawing a million foreign tourists and 15 million domestic tourists in 2019.

The 1,145-square-kilometre Lake Toba, formed out of an ancient super volcano, is a popular sightseeing destination on the island of Sumatra.

The search-and-rescue agency said search operations would continue for at least a week given the size of the enormous body of water, which fills the crater of a supervolcano that is believed to have erupted tens of thousands of years ago.

It was not clear if any foreigners were on board the ferry or what caused the disaster.

Survivor accounts said the boat started shaking as it struggled to navigate strong winds and high waves about halfway into the 40-minute trip from an island in the middle of the lake to shore.

Lake Toba is the largest lake in Indonesia, and sits about 900 metres above sea level.

Up to 180 people are now missing or feared dead after a ferry capsized in Indonesia.

Traditional boats - like the one in the Lake Toba disaster - are rarely equipped with enough life preservers and their condition can be dire.

Up to 180 people were onboard when the ferry capsized.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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