It is feared that at least 192 people have drowned when a ferry sank in Lake Toba in North Sumatra on Monday (18/06). Based on the latest data from Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), 192 people are now still missing, while three bodies have been recovered and 18 people have been rescued. It is possible that the list of missing people will rise further in the days ahead.
The exact number of people that were on the ferry is still unknown because passengers did not need to register. Moreover, it is said the ferry was operating illegally, implying that safety precautions were most likely not adhered to. And indeed, the (new) figure for the number of missing people is more than three times the wooden ferry's capacity (the ferry is believed to have had a 60-passengers capacity). Besides being overcrowded with people there are also reports that the ferry carried dozens of motorcycles.
The combination of overcrowdedness and bad weather is believed to have caused the ferry to sink on Monday afternoon around 17:15 pm local time. One eye witness account that circulates in media adds that the ferry was also hit by an empty wooden boat amid stormy weather.
The fact that only four bodies have been recovered, while there remain 192 people missing could mean that the people were trapped inside the ferry. Or, due to the bad weather at the time, they may have been reluctant to leave the ferry by jumping in the 1,145 square kilometers-sized lake. What makes the search and rescue mission complicated is that Lake Toba is among the world's deepest lakes.
On Sunday (24/06) the first reports started to circulate that the location of the ferry had been determined (at a depth of around 490 meters) through sonar equipment. Meanwhile, the captain of the boat had been arrested as well as may need to face criminal charges.
Indonesia is known for its lack of awareness about safety precautions/standards. Moreover, the ferry was more crowded than usual on Monday because many people traveled in the context of the Eid al-Fitr celebrations that mark the end of the Ramadan month, a period when tens of millions of city people travel back to their places of origin. Enforcement of safety regulations is therefore something that should be encouraged by authorities (for example by imposing heavy sanctions on those who fail to meet such regulations).
A week before the incident on Lake Toba, a boat sank off the coast of South Sulawesi. This boat was also overloaded with people who traveled for the annual Eid al-Fitr exodus. More than a dozen people were killed in this incident. However, this figure is also expected to rise.
Latest Update: Monday 25 June 2018 - 16:30 pm local Jakarta time