World News

Rescuers Search for Dozens Missing After Indonesian Ferry Sinks

Posted June 19, 2018 9:19 a.m. EDT

HONG KONG — Rescuers in Indonesia were searching Tuesday for dozens of people who were reported missing after a ferry sank in a lake during a major holiday, officials and local news media said.

At least one person died when the ferry sank at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Lake Toba, a popular sightseeing spot on Sumatra Island, the Jakarta Globe newspaper reported.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation and the accident occurred during Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Millions of Indonesians have been traveling home to celebrate the holiday, known there as Idul Fitri.

The Globe said the ferry was carrying 80 passengers, but an official with Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency said on Twitter that there may have been anywhere from 70 to 130 people on board.

The disaster agency retweeted a Twitter post by the official, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, that included video of the rescue effort.

He was quoted by The Globe as saying that the cause of the accident was unknown and that search-and-rescue operations were being hampered by high waves.

Calls to the disaster agency failed to go through Tuesday. An automated message said one of the lines had been temporarily disconnected.

Reuters reported that at least 100 rescue personnel were involved in the search. The news agency quoted Sri Hardianto, an official at Indonesia’s transportation ministry, as saying that the wooden ferry had a capacity of 60 passengers but may have been carrying 80 people and dozens of motorcycles.

Marudut Liberty Panjaitan, a local police chief, told The Associated Press that 18 people had been rescued, but that 49 others were missing.

The AP also quoted a survivor, Juwita Sumbayak, who said the ferry sank suddenly after it was hit by a wooden boat in high waves on the lake.

“I was desperate, I was scared to death,” she said. “I’m afraid my family is dead.”

Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands, is notorious for boat accidents, plane crashes and other transportation disasters.

Last Wednesday alone, The AP said, at least 16 people were killed in two separate boat accidents — off Sulawesi Island and near the city of Palembang, respectively.