Sat, 27 Sep 2003

Five killed in two sea accidents

I.D. Nugroho and Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya/Makassar

Questions have been raised over the safety and sea-worthiness of maritime transportation in the country following two maritime accidents yesterday in Tanjung Perak harbor, Surabaya, and the Gulf of Mandar, South Sulawesi, which has brought the tally of accidents this month to five.

Harbor police in Surabaya reported that three people were killed after cargo ship Uni Glory rammed into passenger ship KM Mandiri Nusantara at 8:30 a.m. local time off the coast of Gresik.

Tanjung Perak harbor police officer Adj. Comr. Anjilo said the three victims -- Fitri, 6, her mother Sundari, 50, and Iwan Gunawan, 30 -- were passengers of the KM Mandiri Nusantara.

Rescue teams had to cut through the wreckage of the ships with heavy equipment to recover their bodies, which were trapped under metal debris. Police feared the death toll could increase due to the severity of damage to the passenger ship.

Anjilo said all victims had been evacuated from the ill-fated ships and the wounded, some of whom were in serious condition, were being treated at Dr. Soetomo General Hospital in Surabaya.

The officer said the victims sustained wounds from the impact of the collision, as well as from wrenched and twisted metal wreckage caused by the collision.

One of the survivors, Yeyen, 37, had to have her left leg amputated, while Lia Gunawan, 21, and Kuat, 60, underwent emergency operations for severe head injuries.

The KM Mandiri Nusantara, which plies the Balikpapan-Surabaya route, was on its way to Tanjung Perak port, while Uni Glory had just set sail from Surabaya container terminal when the accident occurred.

The collision between the two vessels left a 20-meter-long gash on the starboard side of the passenger ship, while the cargo ship escaped any major damages. Vehicles and cargo aboard the passenger ship could be seen through the gash.

Faisal, a passenger from Depok, West Java, recounted the horror: "All of a sudden, there was this big bang, our ship shuddered and shook, and the passengers went hysterical."

He said no alarm was heard before the collision happened.

Police are still investigating the cause of the accident.

Meanwhile, hundreds of kilometers away in the Gulf of Mandar, South Sulawesi, two people drowned when a fishing boat carrying locals performing a ritual commemorating the Ascension of Prophet Muhammad capsized after it was hit by strong waves.

Majene Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Haryono said 40 people were on board the fishing boat Mercedes when the mishap occurred.

"The boat had only moved 10 meters from shore when the wave came and overturned it," he said.

He said victims Haslina, 25, and Hasria, 12, died instantly, while Sitti Aliah, 30, Hasria's mother, died of a heart attack brought on by the news of her daughter's death.

The recent accidents came only a few days after another maritime accident in which seven people died and 10 others went missing when a traditional boat sank on Monday in the waters off Topang island, Bengkalis regency, Riau province.

Earlier this month, passenger ship KM Wimala Dharma capsized on Sept. 7 in the Lombok Strait, killing six people. Three days later, another boat overturned in the same waters, leaving three missing.

Safety regulations are often poorly enforced and boats tend to be overloaded in Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic nation, where sea travel is a common form of inter-island public transportation.