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All missing passengers found after Sulawesi boat sinks

Agence-France Presse - July 24, 2023

Jakarta – At least 15 people were killed on Monday after a wooden boat sank off the coast of Southeast Sulawesi, search and rescue officials said, adding that all missing passengers had been accounted for.

The boat sank with 48 people onboard just after midnight (1700 GMT on Sunday), the local office of the National Search and Rescue Agency said in a statement.

Six people were rescued and taken to hospital for treatment, it added, and the cause of the sinking was being investigated.

Muhamad Arafah, head of the local search and rescue agency in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, said in the statement that the 27 other passengers had been accounted for and all the victims had been identified.

The agency had said earlier that 19 were missing, but Arafah said the search operation had now been "declared finished and closed".

The boat was crossing a bay between the villages of Lanto and Lagili in Central Buton regency on Muna island, said local rescue office spokesperson Wahyudin.

Survivor Marlina, 18, told reporters the boat was "full" of passengers when it started to leak.

"Initially it was just normal, but suddenly someone screamed that water had entered," she said.

"The boat driver said 'it's okay'... eventually it just capsized because water filled the boat. We just fell, there were no winds and waves."

'Rescued themselves'

But Wahyudin refused to confirm local media reports the boat was overcrowded.

Local media reported that villagers had travelled for a local celebration and gathered on an overcrowded boat that capsized on its way back across the bay.

It is common in the country for the actual number of passengers on a boat to differ from the manifest.

Wahyudin told AFP passengers had previously been recorded as missing because they had "rescued themselves, and once they got on land, they went home".

The vessel was a wooden passenger boat and not a ferry as initially reported, he said.

The rescue agency shared images of several dead bodies covered by sarongs and laid on tarpaulin at a local hospital.

Marine accidents occur frequently in Indonesia, where people rely on ferries and small boats to travel around despite poor safety standards.

In 2018, more than 150 people drowned when a ferry sank in one of the world's deepest lakes in North Sumatra.

And in May last year, a ferry carrying more than 800 people ran aground in shallow waters off East Nusa Tenggara province and remained stuck for two days before being dislodged.

No one was hurt in that accident.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2023/07/24/all-missing-passengers-found-after-sulawesi-boat-sinks.htm