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25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia

MAKASSAR, INDONESIA (AP) – Rescuers in Indonesia were searching for 25 people who were missing after a cargo boat sank in the Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi province, officials said yesterday.

A total of 42 people were on the boat when it sank in bad weather on Thursday morning while travelling from a seaport in Makassar to Kalmas Island in Pangkep Regency, said Head of the provincial search and rescue agency Djunaidi. Like many Indonesians, Djunaidi goes by only one name.

Seventeen people were later rescued, including some by two tugboats that were at sea at the time of the incident.

Djunaidi said the search and rescue agency received new information about the location of the sunken boat on Saturday and dispatched crews to the area. Two motor boats and a search and rescue boat, along with local fishing boats and Indonesia air force helicopters, are involved in the search for the missing passengers.

The sunken vessel was initially said to be a passenger ferry, but Djunaidi later clarified that it was a cargo boat carrying construction materials. Thirty-six passengers had asked for a ride on the boat and there were six crew members.

Ferry tragedies are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, where ferries are often used as transport and safety regulations can lapse.

In 2018, an overcrowded ferry with about 200 people on board sank in a deep volcanic crater lake in North Sumatra province, killing 167 people. In one of the country’s worst recorded disasters, an overcrowded passenger ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people aboard. There were only 20 survivors.

Members of rescue team look out of the windows of a helicopter during a search flight for a sinking ferry over Makassar Strait, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP