Naval vessels picked up 114 survivors after a passenger ferry went down in rough seas in eastern Indonesia, but there was no sign of dozens of other people still missing, rescuers said.
Groups of worried relatives flocked to Kupang port Wednesday to greet the survivors as they disembarked from two navy ships. Many needed hospital treatment after spending most of the night in the sea or hanging onto debris or lifeboats, witnesses said.
“I felt like I was in a dream when there was the announcement that all the passengers must put on their life vests,” said survivor Adi Soruk as he recovered in a Kupang hospital. “I just knew the craft was going down ... and I turned out to be right,” he said, state news agency Antara reported.
Another survivor told Antara the boat had enough life vests for all those on board, and there was plenty of time for the passengers to put them on — a likely factor in the high number of survivors.
By nightfall, 114 survivors had arrived at the port, said Siti, an official there who goes by a single name. Around 45 other passengers believed on board had yet to be accounted for, she said.
Decky, a rescue official, said strong people may survive in open water with a life vest for more than 24 hours, but that there was no sign of any more survivors when the rescue effort was called off at dusk Wednesday.
“The area was declared clean,” said Decky, who also goes by a single name. “But we can still hope for tomorrow.”
Rescue operations were due to begin at dawn Thursday.
Siti said the Citra Mandala Bahari was carrying far more people than listed on its manifest— a common practice on the thousands of ships that ply the waters of Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic nation.
Overcome by waves
The ferry was traveling from Kupang port on the western side of Timor island to Rote Island late on Tuesday when it reported being battered by waves as high as 10 feet, said naval spokesman Rear Adm. Yusuf Malik.
It tried to return to port but sank soon after, he said.
Accidents at sea are common in Indonesia, a vast archipelago where boat travel is the only way to reach many islands. Safety measures are poorly enforced, and many craft lack enough life jackets and other safety equipment.
The capacity of the Citra Mandala Bahari was not immediately known. It was carrying several trucks and cars, said Malik.
The region is about 1,250 miles east of Jakarta.