Mon, 04 Sep 2000

Search for ship victims intensifies

AMBON, Maluku (JP): Search and rescue teams on Sunday stepped up their search for at least 16 passengers of KM Mulya Star which sank off the Manipa strait near Buru island in Central Maluku regency on Friday night.

As of Sunday evening 9:30 p.m., a total of 24 people have been rescued and three others were found dead by navy rescue teams on board the KRI Rencong and KRI Pandrong battleships near Buru island.

"We will continue the search effort while identification of the victims are underway," Eastern Fleet security chief Commodore Djoko Sumaryono said, adding that the injured survivors were being treated at Halong Naval Hospital, six kilometers east of Ambon.

The navy has also deployed a Nomad airplane to help in the efforts.

The exact number of people on board is uncertain.

Commodore Djoko said the vessel was believed to be carrying about 30 passengers, 13 crew members, a cargo of 100 tons of copra and 20 tons of clove bound for Java.

"Among the passengers were five women and five children. We're also still searching for 60-year-old Aziju, the captain and owner of the ship who was on board," Djoko added.

According to Irwan, 37, an engine crew member who survived the ordeal, KM Mulya Star left Pelita Jaya Port in Piru, West Seram district on Friday about 3:15 p.m. local time and was heading for Probolinggo, East Java.

It was hit by strong winds and a huge tidal wave when entering the Manipa strait, causing the vessel to sink on Friday night about 10 p.m. local time.

"Everything was normal but suddenly we were hit by a strong surge on the left side of the boat...I saw people trying to swim and hold on to things," Irwan said.

Irwan and five others -- La Idu, Salihi, La Uju, La Madi and Liyamin -- were saved by a passing vessel KM Puri Rasa-338 hours after the incident and later transported to the KRI Pandrong naval ship.

In another development in the Ambon capital of Maluku, a local from Laha, identified as Sapto, 18, was killed by a bomb blast in the Air Sakula area in Laha village about 3:20 p.m. local time on Saturday.

"He was severely injured in the head and leg and later died in the Al Fatah hospital," John Tomasoa, a staff expert on public relations affairs of the civil emergency post, said.

Maluku security chief Col. A. Siswanto said an autopsy on the body was underway to avoid "unnecessary accusations toward the military".

Meanwhile, tensions gripped Paradise and Tugu Trikora areas later in the day when Yonas Kalabora, a pedicab driver, found his pedicab missing after taking part in a soccer match.

Yonas, while searching for his lost pedicab, was mobbed by a group of youths. He was later treated at a nearby hospital. Security troops dispersed the crowd to avoid increased tension. (49/edt)