Indonesia probes ferry disaster cause as families join search

Indonesian disaster investigators are focusing on the weather as the cause of a weekend ferry sinking, an official said.

Indonesia probes ferry disaster cause as families join search

Indonesian disaster investigators are focusing on the weather as the cause of a weekend ferry sinking, an official said, as desperate relatives of the missing chartered boats on Wednesday to join the search.

Bad weather has continued to hamper the search for more than 200 people missing after the 10-year-old Teratai Prima keeled over and sank off Sulawesi island in heavy seas.

Transport Minister Jusman Syafi'i Djamal said on Monday that a preliminary investigation showed the ferry capsized after it was hit by waves, but there would be an investigation into why the captain set sail despite warnings about bad weather.

Only 36 survivors and two corpses have been found since the ship went down in the early on Sunday.

Some survivors were found after spending hours clinging to flotsam including, in at least one case, clusters of bananas.

Members of the National Transport Safety Committee had questioned the ferry's captain, who was one of the survivors, as well as crew on other ships in the same area at the time, an official said.

"What we are focused most on now is the weather, because the survivors were not able to grab anything, meaning that it happened really quickly," Kunto Prayogo, the chief investigator, told Reuters.

The ferry was travelling from Pare-Pare on the west coast of Sulawesi to Samarinda city on Indonesia's side of Borneo island.

With no more survivors found since Tuesday, anger and frustration has grown amongst relatives of the missing,

In Majene, a town north of the port of Pare-Pare, some relatives pooled money to rent boats to join the search.

"We are not satisfied with the search and rescue. We want to look ourselves," Azwar, who said he had family members on the ferry, told Detik.com news portal.

Waves of 4 - 6 metres (13 ft - 20 ft) hampered rescue efforts on Wednesday, although a slight improvement in conditions allowed more rescue ships and planes to be deployed, officials said.

Rescue officials said they were investigating reports that around 40 people had been spotted clinging to floating logs, although hopes of finding more survivors appeared to be fading.

Many people may have been unable to escape because they would have been asleep in cabins at the time, officials have said.

One survivor, Syaiful, described panic on the ship as it went down, with children screaming as people flung themselves into the sea, the Suara Pembaruan reported.

Authorities have denied the ferry was overloaded, although a transport ministry official said this week that the captain was not able to sound a general alarm to alert passengers.

The ferry had 12 inflatable life rafts, although there may have been no time to launch them, according to an official.

Investigator Prayogo said the committee would also investigate the confusion over the ship's manifest.

The ferry had 250 passengers and 17 crew according to the manifest, but there may have been more people aboard.

Teddy Sutedjo, director of operations and training at the national search and rescue agency, said on Tuesday the investigation so far showed that 88 people who were believed to have been on board the ferry were not on the list.

Reuters
Last Mod: 14 Ocak 2009, 16:02
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