Indonesia says at least 31 dead in ferry sinking

Mustafa Syahril  EPA via Shutterstock

Mustafa Syahril EPA via Shutterstock

At least 130 passengers have been rescued from a sinking ferry off an Indonesian island, but 31 people were killed when the vessel went down in rough seas.

The latest in a succession of boat tragedies in Indonesia comes on the same day that authorities suspended the search for 164 missing people when a wooden ferry sank last week in a deep volcanic lake on the island of Sumatra.

"We are still trying to rescue the passengers with the help of the police, the army and the search and rescue agency, as well as local residents", Ali said.

Relatives of missing passengers of a ferry that sank cry while throwing flowers into Lake Toba in Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia on July 3, 2018.

Indonesia's disaster agency said 34 people died in the accident while 155 passengers have been rescued, it added.

The KM Lestari Maju was about to sink off the southern coast of Sulawesi island amid bad weather when its captain purposefully grounded it in a shallow area to save the lives of those on board, Director General of Sea Transportation Agus Purnomo told reporters.

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Television images on Tuesday showed dozens of passengers hanging on to the keeling vessel or bobbing in the water wearing life jackets.

He did not specify how many but said the captain and the boat owner were the last two people to leave the vessel.

According to Muhammad Ilyas, head of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, the wreckage was found on Saturday, but the remotely operated underwater vehicle used to find it had also become stuck in ropes connected to the ferry.

Rescuers are still scouring the coastline for missing passengers.

"We lost our two very dear children - both have left us", Soleh, who uses only one name, said after laying a stone in memory of his kids at the groundbreaking ceremony.

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.

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