World News

Indonesia Ferry Toll Soars

Posted June 21, 2018 2:31 a.m. EDT

HONG KONG — A ferry that capsized and sank Monday in a lake in Indonesia, leaving as many as 192 people missing and presumed dead, was overloaded beyond its capacity of about 40, officials said.

Emergency responders continued to search Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra, but as the possibility of rescuing survivors has faded, they have shifted their focus to finding the boat and the bodies believed to be inside.

“We now consider this a recovery effort rather than a search-and-rescue due to the amount of time that has elapsed since the sinking,” Wanda Ketaren, a National Disaster Management Agency official, told CNN.

Eighteen people were rescued after the sinking, which occurred as large numbers of Indonesians were traveling for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Photos of the wooden, double-decker ferry taken before the sinking indicated that it had a capacity of about 40 people, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a disaster agency spokesman, said on Twitter.

The lack of a complete manifest has hampered efforts to determine how many people may have been killed, he said.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, is dependent on ferries for transportation, but poor enforcement of safety standards contributes to frequent accidents.

As the estimated death toll from the sinking climbed in recent days, some passengers’ relatives expressed anger that the authorities did not do more to prevent such disasters.

“What kind of government is this that can’t protect their own people from unnecessary accidents?” Suwarni, the mother of a 20-year-old man who had been on the ferry with his girlfriend, asked The Associated Press.

A police official told CNN that the ferry’s captain survived and was taken into custody. Survivors told news agencies that, in addition to the overcrowding, the ferry had been loaded with motorcycles and that it had hit a smaller wooden boat as bad weather churned up high waves on the lake.