Fri, 26 Sep 2003

Four still missing Bengkalis boat accident

Haidir Anwar Tanjung, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru, Riau

At least six more bodies were found after an overloaded, traditional boat sank in Tanjung Semak waters off Topang island, Bengkalis regency, Riau, bringing the death toll to 13 people, rescuers said on Thursday.

Rescue workers and security officers were searching for at least four other passengers still missing after the incident on Monday night.

Search and rescue (SAR) team leader M. Siregar, who is also the Selatpanjang sea security unit commander in Bengkalis, said at least 41 people were rescued and had returned home.

He said the six bodies, discovered in Tanjung Samak waters, were decomposing and had been handed over to local villagers for identification.

"Our team purely carried out its job of recovering the bodies from the sea. The victims were subsequently dealt with by a medical team from Rangsang subdistrict," Siregar said.

He said the rescuers, using four Navy patrol boats, were facing difficulty in their efforts to search for the four missing passengers due to bad weather in the Malaka Strait.

"The bad weather and strong waves in the sea made it difficult for the SAR team in their rescue efforts," he said.

In addition, many white crocodiles have appeared in the waters where rescuers were searching for the missing victims, Siregar said.

The crocodiles' appearance was believed to have been prompted by the human bodies floating near the scene of the mishap, he added. "We clearly saw white crocodiles there. They are one of the hazards we are facing in the field."

Tropical reptiles such as these were normally very rarely seen by local people, said Siregar.

"However, none of the 13 bodies found so far shows signs of crocodile bites," he said.

Meanwhile, Bengkalis Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Slamet Rianto blamed the capsize of the small wooden boat on overloading and bad weather as the wind was strong when it capsized.

"The boat was designed to carry a maximum of only 40 passengers but the total on the fateful voyage was at least 58 people, including crew members," he said.

The boat's captain, Subari, is in detention at the Tebing Tinggi subdistrict police station in Selatpanjang, Antara reported.

Rianto said the 13 dead were identified as Kateni, 42, Mukayat, 65, Prima, 6, Yana, 13, Din, 30, Irwan, 30, Karim, alias Mualim, 56, Khohiri, 23, Sairi, 30, Saimin, 60, Yari Harta, 65, Sugianto, 56, and Kusna, 65.

All were residents of Tanjung Samak village.

In a similar incident, two cargo ships collided in the Bangka Strait off South Sumatra on Tuesday, leaving at least four sailors missing, feared drowned.

It was not clear on Thursday whether or not the victims had been discovered.

The four were reportedly part of a 28-man crew on the Indonesian-flagged cargo vessel KM Pagarruyung, which collided with a Liberian freighter.