IMAGE: Survivior of ferry sinking
Trisnadi  /  AP
A survivor of last week's ferry accident weeps Wednesday as he is carried by Indonesian navy personnel upon arrival at a port in Surabaya, Indonesia.
updated 1/3/2007 6:51:18 PM ET 2007-01-03T23:51:18

Suyatno spent four days at sea, clinging to his 6-year-old son and praying rescuers would reach them after an Indonesian ferry packed with hundreds of passengers capsized in a violent storm.

“Even though I was weak, I never let go of my boy,” said Suyatno after a navy search team found him, his son, Anggi, and 10 other exhausted survivors on an offshore oil rig and brought them to shore Wednesday.

They survived on dry bread and emergency military rations found drifting in the stormy Java Sea, until being picked up some 120 miles from where the ferry went down late Friday.

Authorities say more than 600 people were aboard when the ferry sank after being pounded by waves for 10 hours on its way from Indonesia’s section of Borneo island to the main island of Java.

More than 200 people have been found alive, most of them plucked from life rafts or clinging to debris, said Col. Jan Simamora, the head of the search and rescue mission.

People who have something to keep them afloat can survive for days in Indonesia’s warm tropical waters and — with only a dozen bodies found so far — Simamora held out hope more people would be rescued.

The exhausted and dehydrated survivors had little to say as they returned to land Wednesday.

‘Where is mother, where is mother?’
Though Suyatno managed to save his son, his 27-year-old wife disappeared in the dark, raging waters as the vessel submerged.

“Where is mother, where is mother?” Anggi cried, sitting on his father’s lap but getting no answer.

It was not clear when the father and son reached the rig or how they managed to get there. Many of those rescued clambered into liferafts and took to the sea as the ferry sank.

Survivors recalled the horror of the ferry’s last minutes and the struggle to stay alive — and at least two said many of the victims were trapped after 16-foot waves crashed over the deck. The ferry then capsized, taking nearly two hours to go down.

Ribut Rahardjo, 35, a plantation worker, said he smashed a cabin window to escape.

“A crew member gave me a life jacket, I saw my bloody hand before I jumped into the sea,” he said from a hospital bed in East Java’s provincial capital, Surabaya, after several days adrift at sea without food or water.

“I tied my stomach up very tightly with my belt to reduce the pain from hunger,” he said.

Indonesia has been wracked by seasonal storms in recent weeks that have caused deadly landslides, flooding and at least six maritime accidents in different parts of the sprawling archipelago.

Rescue becomes recovery
Several planes and ships were recalled Wednesday due to poor conditions and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cautioned transportation officials to exert caution in coming days because more high winds and waves were forecast.

He appealed to rescuers to mobilize all possible resources to locate any remaining survivors from the ferry sinking.

Evi Susilowati, a 23-year-old computer student, was the only woman rescued on a raft with 30 men.

She was given the job of rationing the craft’s supply of drinking water and sago palm flour, which ran out after two days. On the final day, two exhausted people fell overboard.

“We could not save them,” said Susilowati, whose mother and father are missing. “They were young men; I just hope they survive.”

Relatives of the missing have converged on hospitals and ports along Java’s coast, hoping their loved ones will turn up alive.

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