2 more passengers found alive, 74 still missing as ferry SAR mission continues

PHOTO: Reuters

A joint search and rescue (SAR) team reported on Monday that it had rescued just two more passengers of the KM Marina Baru 02 ship that sank on Saturday in Bone Bay, South Sulawesi, leaving 74 passengers still missing more than 48 hours after the incident.

The ship, which had 116 people on board, including 10 crew members, departed from Tobaku Port in North Kolaka regency, Southeast Sulawesi, at around 11 a.m. on Saturday, to travel to Siwa Port.

The ship was expected to arrive in Siwa at 4 p.m. on the same day, however, reportedly lost contact with operators and never reached its destination.

Head of Makassar SAR Agency, Roki Asikin, said the SAR team, as of Monday evening, had managed to rescue 39 passengers of the ill-fated ship, which sank around 22 kilometers from Siwa Port.

Two of the survivors, crew members Baba and Syamsu, were recovered on Sunday evening and Monday morning respectively in two different areas of Bone Bay, Roki said.

"The search today has been focused on [waters near] North Kolaka because the wind blows from the west and the stream moves to the north, heading back to North Kolaka," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday, the team had rescued 37 passengers of the ship's passengers. Three others, however, were found dead.

On Monday, a SAR team from Siwa was deployed to the search location with backup from several speedboats owned by the South Sulawesi Police and local fishermen.

Another team at North Kolaka, on the other hand, was supported by a National Search and Rescue Team (Basarnas) rescue ship, three speedboats and several rubber boats belonging to the North Kolaka regency administration.

The search was led by Basarnas chief Rear Marshal F. Bambang Sulistyo and Basarnas' operational director Brig. Gen. Ivan Ahmad Titus.

Searches were also conducted from the air using several aircraft owned by Basarnas and the Indonesian Air Force.

Kendari SAR Agency head Amiruddin said the second day of searching on Monday covered areas within 67 km of the accident site.

"Tomorrow [Tuesday], the search area will no longer be focused on the accident site but will be expanded to the north," Amiruddin said.

He added the decision was based on the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency's (BMKG) forecast of the direction of currents.

"Normally on day four, victims are already under the surface and have been carried away by the lower current," he said.

Amiruddin also said that the air search had so far only spotted goods, but no passengers. The joint SAR team also found goods but did not retrieve them because they were concentrating on searching for passengers.

On Monday, 12 out of the 35 survivors who received medical treatment at North Kolaka's HM Djafar Harun General Hospital were allowed to go home. The hospital has also released the bodies of the three diseased victims to their respective families.

Head of BMKG Region IV Makassar's service division, Sujarwo, said that when the accident happened, the weather in Bone Bay was relatively stable. The waves were only 1.25 meters high, the average wind speed was 25-28 km per hour and the rain intensity was 55 millimeters.

"The weather was not extreme. It was relatively safe for cruising. The cause of the accident according to us was not weather conditions," Sujarwo said.