166 Missing in Lake After Ferry Disaster

Overcrowded boat sank in Sumatra Monday night
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 20, 2018 12:05 AM CDT
166 Missing After Indonesia Ferry Disaster
Relatives weep Tuesday after learning that their family members are among the passengers of a ferry that sank Monday in Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia.   (AP Photo/Lazuardy Fahmi)

As distraught and angry relatives pleaded for a bigger search effort, Indonesian officials revealed that 166 people are missing from a ferry sinking early this week at a popular lake in Sumatra, a much higher number than previously believed. 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, the AP reports. Only 18 people were rescued and one death was 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.

An AP reporter on Wednesday saw one body being transferred to an ambulance onshore. A rescuer, who didn't give his name, said the dead woman was found about 4 miles from where the boat sank. A woman whose 20-year-old son was on the ferry with this girlfriend slammed the search and rescue operation as slow and insufficient. "Millions of questions keep me from sleeping," she said between desperate sobs. "What kind of government is this [that] can't protect their own people from unnecessary accidents? And after the accident they're not able to find the victims." Cellphone 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.

(More Indonesia stories.)

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