Thu, 25 Sep 2003

Seven dead, 10 missing in boat accident

Haidir Anwar Tanjung, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru, Riau

Seven people died and 10 others are missing after a traditional boat loaded with passengers sank late on Monday in the waters off Topang island, Bengkalis regency, Riau province, police said on Wednesday.

Bengkalis Police chief Sr. Comr. Adj. Slamet Rianto said authorities first became concerned when the boat did not arrive as scheduled at Tanjung Samak, Rangsang subdistrict, Bengkalis regency, from its departure point of Penyalai island, Teluk Dalam, Pelalawan regency.

The boat was reportedly carrying 58 passengers, far above its maximum capacity of 40 passengers.

"As of Wednesday afternoon, seven passengers have died, 41 were rescued and the remaining 10 are still missing. But we have yet to receive any information on the identities of the victims," Slamet said.

The authorities have sent rescue teams and vessels to search for the 10 missing passengers.

He said most of the passengers were farmers from Topang village, Tanjung Samak Sei Tohor and Serapung village.

Tebingtinggi District Military head Capt. Inf. S.L. Harahap said accident survivors told authorities large waves and strong winds caused the boat to sink.

Separately, Agence France-Presse reported that four sailors were missing and feared drowned after two cargo ships collided in a strait off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Provincial port administrator Indra Prayitna said the four men were part of the 28-man crew aboard the Indonesian-flagged KM Pagaruyung cargo vessel, which collided on Tuesday with a Liberian freighter in the Bangka Strait off South Sumatra province.

The other 24 sailors on the KM Pagaruyung drifted in the sea for five hours before being rescued by a passing ship, Prayitna told AFP.

"At the moment, we are still searching for the four men but we fear they might have drowned," he said, adding that the KM Pagaruyung was carrying cement.

The Liberian freighter suffered little damage and continued sailing under naval supervision to Jakarta.

Boats are a common form of public transportation here and accidents frequently occur, in part because safety rules are poorly enforced.