Indonesia ferry sinking death toll rises to 19 as search called off
June 6, 2022 05:48 PM
The death toll of a ferry sinking in Indonesian waters rose to 19 on Monday, after a 10-day search and rescue operation was called off, authorities said.
The KM Ladang Pertiwi ran out of fuel and sank in bad weather while sailing through Indonesia's Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi province on May 26.
News of the accident only reached officials two days later, prompting a search and rescue operation that involved local fishermen and tugboats passing through the strait.
Authorities rescued 31 passengers and crew, found four bodies and declared 15 missing before the search effort concluded. Those who were missing are now presumed dead.
"We are calling off the search because there are no signs that more victims could be found," local search and rescue chief Djunaidi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.
The ship's captain, who survived the sinking, was named last week as a suspect for transporting passengers without the necessary permit and the ship's owner was named as a suspect for hiring crew without the proper qualifications, local media reported.
Djunaidi said local fishermen who regularly sail the area were told to alert the authorities if they found more bodies.
He said the search operation could be reopened if there were any signs of survivors.
Djunaidi told a press conference Monday that the incident served as a reminder to "prioritise our safety".
Marine accidents are common in Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country of around 17,000 islands where safety regulations are often laxly enforced.
In May, a ferry carrying more than 800 people ran aground in shallow waters off East Nusa Tenggara province and remained stuck for two days before being dislodged. No one was hurt in that accident.
In 2018, more than 150 people drowned when a ferry sank in one of the world's deepest lakes on Sumatra island.