MAKASSAR, Indonesia – Rescuers have pulled put 39 survivors and three dead from a passenger boat that sank in central Indonesia after being buffeted by high waves, and were battling bad weather Sunday to reach scores of others still missing.
The fiberglass ferry was on its way from Kolaka in Southest Sulawesi province crossing the Gulf of Bone to Siwa town with 110 passengers and 12 crew, when it was overwhelmed by waves more than 3 metres high during stormy weather on Saturday afternoon, said Roki Asikin, head of the search and rescue agency in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi.
Six rescue boats and ships were sent from Kendari and Makassar after they received a distress call from the crew who reported that the vessel was starting to take on water about 21 kilometres (13 miles) southeast of Siwa port in Wajo district, Asikin said. The passengers included 14 children, he said.
Earlier Sunday, fishermen found four people, including a woman and a child wearing life jackets. They told authorities that their boat sank hours after being hit by high waves.
Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata said 35 other survivors and three dead were discovered later.
He added that the four who were found earlier Sunday were taken to Port Hospital in Siwa, while the others were on their way to another hospital in Kolaka Utara district.
Television footage showed dozens of family members anxiously waiting for their loved ones at the Siwa port.
Indonesian boat accidents have killed hundreds of people in recent years. Boats are often overcrowded and safety regulations are poorly enforced. The vast country spans more than 17,000 islands with a population of 250 million, and boats are a popular and relatively cheap form of transportation.