Hundreds pray at Indonesia lake as search for bodies resumes
TIGARAS, Indonesia – The Associated Press
Family members waiting in desperation at a small port on Indonesia’s Lake Toba for news of missing relatives performed mass prayers on June 21 as the search for more than 190 people unaccounted for after a ferry sinking continued for a fourth day.
Only 18 people have been rescued and four confirmed dead since the overcrowded ferry sank early June 18 evening in waters that officials say are up to 500 meters deep.
Budiawan, the head of the search and rescue agency in nearby Medan, told Indonesian TV that the captain was among those rescued. He gave no other details but local media reports said the captain was being questioned by police.
The disaster, likely Indonesia’s worst sinking in more than a decade, has prompted President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to call for an overhaul of safety standards for passenger boats. Ferries are an important means of transportation in the nation of more than 17,000 islands, which cover an area that would stretch from New York to London.
About a thousand people crowded Tigaras pier on June 21, including several hundred relatives of victims, some weeping uncontrollably, others silent and pensive.
Each time a search and rescue vessel docked, relatives ran toward it, only to turn away with faces contorted in disappointment or crying out the names of loved ones when it became clear no family member had been found.
Members of a religious organization tried to comfort people, organizing mass prayers for Christians and Muslims that continued for an hour. Chanting of Quranic and Christian verses was interrupted by the sobs of relatives and onlookers also moved to tears.
Cellphone video taken from another ferry that attempted to rescue people after the sinking has spread widely online and on television. The video shows dozens of people struggling in rough waters and crying for help while several of them try to swim for an orange lifesaver apparently thrown from the ferry.