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Divers Search Indonesian Lake for Nearly 200 Missing after Ferry Sinks


Relatives cry while waiting for news on missing family members who were on a ferry that sank yesterday in Lake Toba, at Tigaras Port, Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia June 19, 2018. (REUTERS/Albert Damanik)
Divers Search Indonesian Lake for nearly 200 Missing After Ferry Sinks
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Relatives of the more than 190 people missing after a boat sank on Lake Toba in Sumatra have asked government officials for a bigger search.

The families also criticized the Indonesian government for ignoring unsafe conditions on passenger boats.

Disaster officials have raised the number of dead several times. Family members arrived at Lake Toba in northern Sumatra to seek information. But, there was no passenger list for the overcrowded wooden ferry.

Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi and the chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency, Muhammad Syaugi, spoke to reporters about the incident. The officials said the boat was built to hold 43 passengers, but was carrying about 200. It had only 45 life jackets designed to keep passengers from drowning.

Only 18 survivors were found within hours of the sinking on Monday. The boat sank in deep water half a kilometer from a popular island.

It is possible many victims are still inside the sunken ferry, said North Sumatra province police chief Paulus Waterpau.

“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 had a 20-year-old son who was with his girlfriend on the ferry. She criticized the search and rescue operation as slow.

“What kind of government is this that can’t protect their own people from unnecessary accidents?” she asked.

The search has involved 350 people but they have found few bodies. Syaugi said only four deaths were confirmed after three more bodies were found on Wednesday.

Syaugi defended the search effort, saying that the agency, police, military and other personnel have been working “all out” and non-stop. The search may continue for another 10 days.

Survivor Juwita Sumbayak said she had crossed the lake many times on the same boat. She said it was overcrowded on Monday because of the holiday for the end of the Muslim holy month.

The mother cried uncontrollably as she spoke to a reporter. She called out the names of her husband and children who she believes drowned inside the boat.

She said that about 20 minutes after the ferry left, high waves caused it to list to the right and take on water, which caused the passengers to panic. After it was hit by additional waves, it seemed to shake and then it capsized.

“Many passengers without a life jacket jumped into the deep lake, but others drowned with the boat,” she said. “I jumped, I cried with fear.” She saw many people in the water “but nobody can help.”

Another survivor, Riko Saputra, said that many motorcycles packed on one side of the boat caused it to list. He said he was in the water for about an hour before he was rescued. He believed he only survived by holding onto a helmet.

Cellphone video released earlier in the week by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency showed the crew of another ferry trying to rescue people in the waters shortly after the sinking. But bad weather and rough waters held them back.

The disaster comes as tens of millions Indonesians return home for the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

Sumadi, the transport minister, said that all 40 ferry operators on Lake Toba are being suspended and examined by the government until they show they are following safety rules.

Lake Toba is popular with tourists on the island of Sumatra. The Indonesian government hopes to develop the area for increased tourism.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted the report for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ferryn. a boat used to take passengers to a place

drone n a type of small aircraft that flies without a pilot

tourist n. one who visits a place for pleasure

list –v. to lean to one side

panic – v. to become filled with fear

capsizev. to turn so that the bottom is on top

helmetn. a hard hat that is worn to protect your head —

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