Battle Continues to Rescue Ferry Survivors

JAKARTA ~ Rescuers battled storms and fierce winds to pluck 28 survivors of a ferry disaster from heavy seas, with hundreds still missing ive days after the ship sank off Java island.

Fishermen found 15 of the survivors clad in lifejackets floating near Sumenep in waters off East Java’s Madura island, while navy warship KRI Hiu saved the others.

“KRI Hiu saved 13 survivors just south of Bawean island today,” Central Java navy commander Colonel Yan Simamora said on Wednesday.

Bawean is 350 kilometers northeast of the Java port of Semarang, the original destination of the ferry, which sank in a storm.

“Together with the local government, we are arranging for the return of the 15 survivors we found this morning,” Sumenep police chief Budiono told the official Antara news agency.

Budiono said they were all in relatively good health except for some minor bruises and cuts.

Police were sweeping local waters for more survivors carried by wind and waves hundreds of kilometers from the area where the ferry sank.

Navy ships, fishermen and search and rescue teams have found more than 200 survivors since the ferry sank late last Friday with some 600 people on board.

“So far there are 205 survivors and seven people found dead,” Semarang port official Bagasto said before the latest 15 were found.

Three unidentified victims were buried on Wednesday.

Survivors have been spotted on life rafts but bad weather and huge waves have hampered efforts to pluck them to safety after days on the open sea.

Food and drink, attached to tires, have been dropped to them.

“The weather is still relatively bad, with strong winds and rain,” Simamora said, stressing that the search would continue despite the adverse conditions.

“We have seven navy ships, helicopters and Nomads (patrol aircraft) currently searching the area as far east as north of Madura island,” just off Surabaya in East Java province, he said.

Meteorologists have warned that the bad weather and rough seas will continue for the next few days, with waves of two to four meters high and strong winds.

Preliminary investigations show bad weather was to blame for the accident, transport safety officials have said, as they continue to collect data.

Passengers have described panic and confusion on the ship as it sank in minutes late at night in a storm off Java.

The Senopati Nusantara (Archipelago Commander) was en route from Kumai in Kalimantan to Semarang when it sank.

The vessel was carrying 542 passengers and 57 crew. It was licensed to carry 850. (BT/agencies/reports)

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