Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Fourteen survivors of an Indonesian ferry disaster that left hundreds dead or missing have been rescued after drifting on a liferaft for nine days, rescue officials said today. A fifteenth person died after being rescued by the passing cargo ship KM Mandiri. "They were found yesterday, 15 of them. One of them died this morning. He had been in critical condition. They are now being transported to Makassar," said rescue official Bambang Karnoyudho, referring to the main city in the south of Sulawesi island.The latest survivors had drifted some 480km (300 miles) from the site of the accident by the time they were found early yesterday morning, said Mr Karnoyudho, who is head of the national search and rescue agency. The Japanese-built Senopati Nusantara, carrying more than 600 people, sank just before midnight on December 29 after being pounded by waves for ten hours on its voyage from the port of Kumai, in Borneo, to Java. At least 248 survivors have been found by clinging to wreckage and life rafts or floating in life vests. Strong winds and huge waves have severely hampered the rescue operation, which involved navy ships and helicopters.
KM MandiriFood and water, attached to tyres, was also dropped to survivors on life rafts. Only 10 corpses have been recovered so far, although a navy spokesman said yesterday that hundreds of bodies were likely to be trapped inside the lower decks of the sunken ferry. Ferries are a crucial link between the archipelago nation's 17,000 islands and sea accidents are commonplace. Frequently ferries carry more people than is acknowledged officially and maritime safety standards are often poorly enforced. A government transport investigator said last week that she suspected huge waves had come over the car deck door and become trapped inside the vessel, adding to its weight and making it unstable.