Search Resumes After Ferry Sinks off Indonesia

By Ali Kotarumalos 28 September 2012

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Rescuers continued to search waters off Indonesian islands Thursday for people reporting missing after a ferry collided with a chemical-carrying ship and sank, killing at least eight people.

More than 210 passengers and crew were rescued and eight bodies were pulled from the water, including a 10-year-old girl, after the sinking on Wednesday morning, said Heru Purwanto, an official at Bakauheni port on southern Sumatra. They are believed to have jumped into the sea without life jackets and could not swim, he said.

The manifest listed 213 passengers and crew and 78 vehicles on the ferry, but manifests are often unreliable in Indonesia because tickets are sold onboard to passengers who are never registered.

The search for survivors was continuing after many family members came forward to report the names of missing loved ones. Some passengers were believed to be inside vehicles parked on the ferry when it sank, possibly trapping them, said Budi Harto, who heads the local disaster management agency in Lampung province. He added that divers were hampered by the location where the ferry sank, with waters as deep as 90 meters (295 feet).

The ferry collided with the ship about 40 minutes into its 90-minute journey between Java and Sumatra islands. More than 80 passengers were hospitalized with injuries, including at least one in critical condition.

Singapore-based Norgas Carriers Pte. Ltd. said in a statement that the propylene chemical being carried onboard the ship did not leak and there was no pollution caused by the accident.

The collision occurred around four miles from Bakaheuni in Lampung province, said Bambang Ervan, a Transportation Ministry spokesman.

“The ferry went down so fast after the collision,” Purwanto said. It sank 20 minutes after the captain sent a distress signal, enabling 10 merchant ships sailing nearby in the busy Sunda Straits to immediately start rescuing passengers and crew, he said.

The Bahuga Jaya ferry links the main Java island with southern Sumatra Island. It went down after departing from Merak port in Java.

Ferries are a major source of transportation in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 17,000 islands and a population of 240 million. Sea accidents are common due to overcrowding and poor safety standards.