Mahakam Boat Survivor Search Concludes With Death Toll at 19

By Tunggadewa Mattangkilang on 10:35 am Apr 22, 2013
Category Featured, News

Rescuers carry a body bag bearing a recovered body of a victim from a boat accident in Mahakam river in Samarinda town in East Kalimantan province on April 18, 2013. (AFP Photo/Firman Hidayat)

Rescuers carry a body bag bearing a recovered body of a victim from a boat accident in Mahakam river in Samarinda town in East Kalimantan province on April 18, 2013. (AFP Photo/Firman Hidayat)

Samarinda. Officials in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, are winding down efforts to search for more survivors from a boat that capsized in the Mahakam River last week, saying the chances of finding anyone else alive are minute.

Hakes, the operations and control coordinator at the East Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), said on Sunday that today would mark the final day of the emergency response period, during which rescuers typically focus on finding survivors of a disaster.

Twenty-one people were rescued after the boat capsized on Wednesday while carrying workers from two timber companies, while 19 people are confirmed dead.

All the recovered bodies have been identified and handed over to the respective families for burial.

Search and rescue officials say four more people remain missing but at this stage are feared dead.

However, there are conflicting reports of just how many people were on board the boat when it sank after reportedly being hit by a large wave.

The boat was supposed to have a capacity of just 44 people, but the passenger manifest listed 50 people.

There have also been 68 families who have come forward saying that a relative was on board at the time, and this higher figure is also consistent with the accounts given by the survivors and witnesses.

However, following a meeting with Governor Awang Faroek Ishak, the BPBD went with the most conservative figure of 44 people, saying that they were now only searching for four more victims.

“If it turns out to be more than that, then the search for the remaining people will be the responsibility of the companies [that hired the boat],” Hakes said.

Mugiono, the BPBD operations head, said separately that rescuers would try to salvage the wreck of the boat from the bottom of the river in the hope of recovering more bodies.

Last September, 21 people died when a ferry capsized after hitting a log in the Mahakam River, the largest in the country, a few hours after leaving Samarinda.

The river also claimed the lives of 38 people who fell to their death when the Mahakam II Bridge in Kutai Kartanegara district collapsed in November 2011.