01/12/2009, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Search continues for 250 missing in the waters off Sulawesi

by Mathias Hariyadi
The ferry sunk yesterday. The Indonesian Navy and local fishing vessels are employed in the search. There is little hope given stormy sea conditions. Disaster caused by storm but also by overcrowding.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian Navy and local fishermen continue their search, but hopes are fading that survivors of from the KM Teratai Prima ferry which sunk off Parepare coast in South Sulawesi will be found. Desperate relatives still await news from rescue vessels.

So far 18 people have been rescued by fishermen who were in the region of the ferry, but at least 250 people are still missing including the 17 members of the crew.  The ferry captain, Basir, is among those who were brought to safety.  He said that at least 150 people succeeded in jumping into the seas before the ferry sunk.  Many Indonesians do not know how to swim, and it is believed that many may have drowned in the stormy seas.

The KM Teratai Prima, left Parepare bound for Samarinda, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan, but it was struck by huge waves some as high as 4 metres, was overturned and eventually submerged. The official report into the disaster cites the storm as the only cause for the accident.  But there are suspicions that the ferry – as is often the case in Indonesia – was overburdened with people and goods for transport.  The minister for transport has however excluded the possibility of overcrowding.  The Ferry had a capacity of 300 passengers.

The meteorological office had warned that Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th, Indonesian waters would have witnessed storm force waves, but the KM Teratai ignored the warnings.

In Indonesia ferries are a typical means of transport, linking the main islands of the immense archipelagos.  In December 2006, a ferry with over 600 people onboard sunk during a journey from Borneo to Java.  The majority of passengers were never found.

 

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