Monday, August 18, 2014

Indonesia: Update--Dutchman, Italian Woman Still Missing from Tourist Boat Sinking

According to The Associated Press, rescuers on Monday (August 18) local time safely recovered 13 more people from a tourist boat that sank after hitting a reef in central Indonesia, but were searching for a Dutchman and an Italian woman who were still reported among the missing. 

Eight more foreign tourists and all five Indonesians were found early Monday, said Lalu Wahyu Efendi, operational chief for the search and rescue agency in Mataram. 

The tourist sank Saturday evening (August 16) on its way from Lombok island to Komodo island carrying 20 foreign tourists, four Indonesian crewmen and an Indonesian guide. Ten people--all foreigners--were rescued Sunday.

Thirteen passengers were rescued by fishermen about 43 kilometers (27 miles) east of where their wooden boat sank off Sangeang Api, a volcanic island in Bima district off the eastern coast of Sumabwa island.

COMMENT: I continue to urge foreign travelers globally to be extremely cautious in retaining the services of watercraft in developing countries as maritime craft are poorly regulated with even worse enforcement.

My first suggestion if you are planning to engage any watercraft for excursions over lengthy journeys is to ask the concierge at your hotel for a recommendation, although doing so can often be a double-edged sword in that some hotels get a "kick-back" from the highest bidder, which is why I ALSO suggest that foreigners visit their embassy or consulate and ask for a list of reputable boat vendors that are reliable and have a reputation for safe operations. I suggest that this be done in PERSON.

Most of those who were rescued had minor injuries, said Efendi, adding that rescuers were still scouring the waters for the two missing foreigners.

A woman who was rescued Sunday told MetroTV that she and the others swam for hours before being found.

"It was a terrible experience. We swam in choppy waters for seven hours before being found by a fisherman," said the woman, identified only as Maria.

The rescued foreigners included five Dutch, four Germans, three Italians, two each from Spain and New Zealand, and one each from France and Britain, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for Indonesia's disaster management agency.

The boat was hit by a three-meter-high (10-foot-high) wave in bad weather and crashed into a reef, causing it to leak and sink, Nugroho said.

The tourists had embarked aboard the boat on Thursday (August 15) on a tour taking them from the resort island of Bali to Komodo island, including a stopover on Lombok. A boat trip from Lombok to Komodo can take up to 15 hours.

Komodo is part of the Lesser Sunda chain of islands and forms part of Komodo National Park, which is known for endangered Komodo dragons that can grow longer than 3 meters (10 feet).

Boat accidents are common in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands, in part because of deficient safety standards.