Jakarta: At least 16 people, including two children, died today after a ferry ran aground off the coast of Indonesia, officials said, as rescuers raced to save scores of other passengers thought to be aboard the vessel.
The deadly incident comes the same day authorities officially called off the search for more than 160 people still missing after another ferry sank on a popular tourist lake in Sumatra two weeks ago.
Images from the latest accident showed passengers clinging to the side of the KM Lestari as it listed in waters off Sulawesi island, while other passengers floated in the sea awaiting help.
The ferry ran aground about 300 metres (985 feet) from the coast, Indonesia’s transportation agency said, as waves swamped trucks and other vehicles on the boat’s deck before they plunged into the water.
Sixteen bodies have been recovered, with 39 survivors, but authorities have not yet accounted for all 139 people listed in the ship’s manifest, said Darfian Mukri, head of the local disaster agency.
“The joint search and rescue team and fisherman are still trying to rescue victims on board the boat,” Mukri told AFP.
“The number of passengers that are still trapped on the boat is not yet known.”
A fleet of smaller boats was working to save passengers as bad weather was preventing larger vessels from getting near the location, the transportation ministry said.
It added that passengers had been wearing life jackets.
The 48-metre vessel was sailing from Sulawesi to nearby Selayar island when it ran into strong winds and high waves.
Deadly maritime accidents are not uncommon in Indonesia, where many people depend on boats to get around the 17,000 island archipelago nation despite lax safety standards. (AFP)