Indonesia hunts Spaniards missing in tourist boat sinking

Indonesia hunts Spaniards missing in tourist boat sinking
Two Spanish men were still missing after the boat, which was also carrying Indonesian crew, sank Saturday as it made the long voyage from Lombok island

BIMA, Indonesia - Indonesian rescuers Tuesday expanded their search for two Spanish men still missing after a tourist boat sank at the weekend, forcing survivors to swim hours to dry land and drink their own urine.

The boat, which was carrying 20 foreigners and five Indonesians, went down Saturday after being hit by a storm and running into a reef as it travelled from Lombok island to Komodo island, a popular tourist destination.

Eighteen tourists and all the Indonesians onboard have so far been rescued.

The missing Spaniards had been with a first group of foreigners who were saved on Sunday after swimming for miles to a volcanic island, said Budiawan, search and rescue chief on Lombok.

They had separated from the others in a bid to reach dry land quicker, said the official, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

He said rescuers were on Tuesday expanding their search to focus on the eastern side of Sangeang, the island that the others in the group had managed to reach.

"This morning we deployed five boats from our search and rescue team, the weather is good today so we hope we can find them," said Budiawan.

He added local fishermen working at night had also been asked to look for the missing tourists.

Fishermen rescued a second group on Monday, made up of eight foreigners and the Indonesians, who were the boat crew and a tour guide.

They had floated at sea for 40 hours, with some huddled in a small lifeboat and others in life jackets.

Bertrand Homassel, a French survivor among the first group, told AFP how they waited for hours perched on the roof of the boat as it slowly sank.

They were eventually left with no choice but to swim to Sangeang island on the horizon, he said. When they finally reached the small island on Saturday evening after a six-hour swim, they found it deserted.

Dehydrated, exhausted and sunburnt, they resorted to drinking their own urine and eating leaves until a passing boat picked them up the following day, he said.

The foreigners rescued were from New Zealand, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy.

Komodo island is one of several islands that make up the Komodo National Park, a protected area. Its eponymous lizards can grow up to three metres (10 feet) long and have a venomous bite.

Indonesia relies heavily on boats to connect its more than 17,000 islands, but has a poor maritime safety record. However boat sinkings involving foreign tourists are rare.

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