Jakarta. At least 12 people are believed to have drowned when a passenger ferry sank in waters off the Selayar Islands in South Sulawesi on Tuesday afternoon (03/07), an official said.
The ferryboat Lestari Maju with nearly 140 passengers on board started listing to one side after taking on water due to rough seas before it sank around 300 meters off Padabilang Beach, close to its destination, Pamatata Port, according to Agus Purnomo, director of sea transportation at the Ministry of Transportation.
"Water started to enter the boat because of the poor weather conditions and the captain decided to deliberately sink the vessel to make it easier for passengers to evacuate," Agus said.
Amruddin, head of the Makassar branch of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) told Metro TV that at least 12 bodies have been recovered, while around 120 rescuers, including local fishermen, were still looking for survivors.
Agus said all passengers were wearing lifejackets at the time of the incident.
The ferry, which sailed from Bira in Bulukumba district to Pamatata in Selayar Islands district, also had 48 vehicles on board.
Meanwhile, more than 150 people are still missing in last month's sinking of a ferryboat in Lake Toba, North Sumatra. Authorities decided to stop the search operations on Monday after seven days of fruitless efforts. Many bodies are believed to be trapped inside the boat, which has settled on the bottom of the lake at a depth of around 450 meters.
Twenty-one passengers survived and three bodies have so far been recovered.
The incident has prompted the Transportation Ministry to order all port authorities to improve safety standards and check vessels for compliance.