High waves sink boat in Indonesia waters; 80 missing, 3 bodies found

MAKASSAR, Indonesia -- Rescuers on Sunday pulled out 39 survivors and three dead from a passenger boat that sank in central Indonesia after being buffeted by high waves, and battled bad weather to try to reach scores of others still missing.

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The fiberglass ferry was on its way from Kolaka in Southeast Sulawesi province crossing the Gulf of Bone to Siwa town when it was overwhelmed by waves more than 3 metres (10 feet) high during stormy weather Saturday, said Roki Asikin, head of the search and rescue agency in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi.

The boat was carrying 110 passengers and 12 crew members, Asikin said. The passengers included 14 children.

Six rescue boats and ships were dispatched after they received a distress call from the crew, who reported that the vessel was starting to take on water about 21 kilometres (13 miles) southeast of Siwa port, Asikin said.

Fishermen found four people who had been on the boat, including a woman and a child. They told authorities that the boat sank hours after being hit by high waves.

Thirty-five other survivors and three bodies were found later Sunday, said Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata. He said all of the survivors were taken to hospitals.

The search for the 80 people still missing was called off at nightfall Sunday and will resume Monday morning.

Television video showed dozens of family members anxiously waiting for their loved ones at the Siwa port.

Indonesian boat accidents have killed hundreds of people in recent years. Boats are often overcrowded and safety regulations are poorly enforced. The vast country spans more than 17,000 islands with a population of 250 million, and boats are a popular and relatively cheap form of transportation.


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