SIMALUNGUN, Indonesia: Nearly 180 passengers are missing after a ferry sank into the depths of a volcanic lake in Indonesia, police said Wednesday, almost tripling initial estimates.
But the search-and-rescue agency cautioned it was still unclear how many people were aboard the vessel when it capsized.
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 passengers on the overcrowded boat.
Indonesia’s disaster agency originally said some 80 people along with dozens of motorcycles were on the vessel when it overturned and sank.
It had a 43-passenger capacity, according to the transport ministry.
On Wednesday police said there were as many as 178 people missing, which if confirmed would make it one of Indonesia’s worst maritime disasters.
Authorities have been relying on families who have reported that missing relatives may have been on the doomed vessel.
“Many people got on the boat without a ticket so it’s unclear how many were on board,” Muhammad Syaugi, the head of the search and rescue agency, told AFP.
Later at a press conference, Syaugi added: “There are many people who have reported their relatives missing, but whether they were on the boat or not we don’t know.”
So far, four bodies have been found and another 18 people rescued, according to the local disaster agency, as the search turned to recovering the bodies of victims — including those still trapped inside the sunken boat.
“We’ll be here until they find my brother’s body,” said Nurhayati, among hundreds of grief-stricken people waiting by the shore for updates.
“We just want to see his body and take him with us.”—AFP