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Trapped Indonesian ferry with 800 on board dislodged

MAUMERE, INDONESIA (AFP) – An Indonesian ferry carrying 800 people that had run aground was dislodged yesterday and continued on its journey, the military said.

KM Sirimau, with 784 passengers and 55 crew members on board, was dislodged from shallow waters off East Nusa Tenggara province at noon, the head of local naval base Dwi Yoga told AFP.

“With hard work, KM Sirimau which had been stuck for two days, was released at noon and is heading to the nearest port in Lewoleba,” he said.

The ferry was later taken to Lewoleba port on the island of Lembata for checks before continuing its journey to the town of Maumere on the island of Flores.

“The boat is now free and we are heading back to Lewoleba. We almost arrived now,” passenger Itha Tating told AFP on the phone.

Food and beverage vendors toss their wares to passengers onboard the KM Sirimau ferry. PHOTO: AFP

Passengers had started to worry after being stuck on the boat for days, Tating said, adding that a woman was panicking because she ran out of milk formula for her five-month-old.

“The waves were strong this morning. I got scared and dizzy from seasickness,” Tating said.

The military boarded yesterday morning to distribute water and snacks for the passengers, including children and the elderly.

“The passengers had started to panic because they had been stuck on the boat for over 24 hours,” Yoga said.

Efforts to free the boat finally succeeded after a tugboat sent by state-owned shipping company PT Pelni arrived to help.

Rescuers waited for the tide to rise before they towed the ferry, Yoga added.

Marine accidents are common in Indonesia, where people rely on ferries and other boats to travel despite notoriously poor safety standards.