Batam ferry accident toll rises to 21; search on for dozens still missing

The police suspect that the overcrowded boat encountered the rough seas and capsized.

At least 21 dead in speedboat accident off Batam, search teams hunt for dozens missing
Indonesians try to identify their missing relatives from the name list Reuters

A team of 280-rescue personnel scoured the waters off an Indonesian island on Thursday in search of people who went missing after a speed boat carrying nearly 100 suspected migrant workers capsized on Wednesday.

The national disaster mitigation agency said the accident happened as the speed boat was heading towards Batam Island in Indonesia from the southern Malaysian state of Johor.

The local police chief Sam Budi Gusdian said a helicopter and a dozen boats were also working along with the rescue teams. At least 21 people died and dozens were still missing. The authorities added that nearly 39 passengers had been pulled alive from the seas.

The police suspect that the overcrowded boat encountered the rough seas and capsized.

Zainul Arifin, one of the survivors of the accident, said he was sitting at the back of the boat when sea water started coming aboard. "I had to jump off and start swimming," Arifin told Reuters.

Another 51-year-old survivor, Haryanto, said the speedboat was so crowded that some of the passengers had to stand. "After two hours of sailing, the boat was struck by strong waves and heavy downpour," he told The Jakarta Post.

On Wednesday, the Indonesian media issued a list of the names of people who were rescued. The listed people came from different parts of the country, including Sumatra, Lombok and Java islands.

The Indonesian archipelago consists of more than 17,000 islands and the people are entirely dependent on boat transport. However, fatal accidents are quite common in this region.

In December 2015, a ferry was capsized by huge waves in the Sulawesi province killing more than 60 people.