More than 190 missing after Indonesia ferry sinking


Eighteen people have been rescued and one death confirmed after an Indonesian ferry sunk, but the number believed missing has risen to 192.

Indonesian officials say 192 people are missing from a ferry sinking early this week at a popular lake on Sumatra, a much higher number than previously believed, as distraught and angry relatives pleaded for a bigger search effort.

The ferry sank on Monday afternoon after it encountered bad weather and two-metre waves.

A mother cries as she reunites with her son, who survived the boat's sinking on Monday at Lake Toba, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

The boat, overcrowded with passengers and motorbikes, didn't have a manifest and disaster officials have several times raised the number of people it was carrying as family members who rushed to Lake Toba in northern Sumatra provided information.

On Wednesday, the local military command released a list of the names of 192 missing people. A day earlier, disaster officials had said 94 people were missing though expected the number to rise.

Only 18 people were rescued and one death confirmed in the immediate response to the sinking on Monday evening. Since then, the search and rescue effort involving 350 personnel and at least half a dozen boats has turned up items of clothing, bags and traces of oil from the boat.

It's possible many of the victims were still inside the sunken ferry, North Sumatra province police chief Paulus Waterpau said.

"Many survivors told authorities that less than half of them had jumped into the water before the boat sank," he told The Associated Press.

Suwarni, whose 20-year-old son and his girlfriend were on the ferry, slammed the search and rescue operation as slow and insufficient.

Indonesia search and rescue team on boat  searches for a ferry which sank Monday.
Indonesia search and rescue teams search Toba lake for more than 192 people missing.

"Millions of questions keep me from sleeping," she said between desperate sobs. "What kind of government is this which can't protect their own people from unnecessary accidents? And after the accident they're not able to find the victims."

"I beg help to everyone to quickly find my son and his girlfriend, even if their remains, please find my son, return him to me," Suwarni, who uses only one name, said.

Mobile phone video released earlier in the week by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency showed the crew of another ferry attempting to rescue people struggling in the waters shortly after the sinking but being hampered by bad weather and rough waters.

The 1145-square kilometre Lake Toba, formed out of an ancient super volcano, is a popular sightseeing destination on the island of Sumatra.

The disaster has cast a tragic pall over holidays marking the end of Ramadan when tens of millions of Indonesians return to their hometowns.

Ferry tragedies are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, with weak enforcement of safety regulations often to blame.

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