Little Hope For More Survivors From Sunken Indonesian Ferry

January 3, 2007 4:43am CST
Rescue workers continued their efforts to locate survivors of a passenger ferry that sank last week in stormy seas off the main island of Java, although chances of finding more survivors were considered remote, officials said Wednesday. "We continue our search, although hope to find more survivors is getting smaller," Maji, an official at the Search and Rescue Agency in the Central Java capital of Semarang, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "People who are floating on rough seas with life jackets for more than two days will experience dehydration, so chances to survive are small," he said, adding that survivors on life rafts might have a better chance. Only 205 survivors and seven bodies have been plucked from the rough seas in the area since the accident last Friday. More than 400 people were still missing and feared drowned. The Senopati Nusantara ferry, packed with at least 631 people, sank in a storm off Central Java while en route from the central Kalimantan port of Kumai to Semarang harbour. Officials said the captain had radioed to port authorities that the storm had severely damaged the vessel. Survivors recounted harrowing stories of the ship's last moments and their struggles to put on life jackets and get into lifeboats just before the ferry sank around midnight Friday. Many clung to wooden planks to survive in 8-metre-high waves. Transportation Minister Hatta Radjasa said the ferry was seaworthy and categorized as still new, and he blamed bad weather for causing the accident. The ship, built in Japan in 1990, had a capacity of 850 passengers. The Indonesian Navy has deployed seven ships, two helicopters and three airplanes and expanded its search area off the northern coast of Central Java, 400 kilometres east of Jakarta. "The weather is good today, that helps a lot on the search," said Maji, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. "We are now searching small islands off eastern Java." Seasonal rains and high winds in Indonesia have caused deadly floods, landslides and transportation accidents in the past few weeks, including the crash of a commercial airliner Monday afternoon on Sulawesi Island. It was the latest in a series of sea disasters in Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands. In July 2003, a ferry packed with around 500 people fleeing sectarian violence in the eastern Indonesian province of Maluku sank in bad weather in the Maluku Sea, leaving hundreds dead or missing. Indonesian passenger ferries and ships generally have poor safety records and also frequently exceed the number of passengers allowed on board.
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