Search operations are underway for at least 180 people missing after a ferry capsized late Monday afternoon in Lake Toba on Sumatra Island, during Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Millions of people travel home for the holiday, and the lake is crowded with boats during this time of year.
A search and rescue team, including divers and drones, is scouring the lake’s depths, looking for those who were on board the ferry when it sank.
Rescuers say they have recovered clothes, bags and just 18 survivors, who told the Associated Press that the boat began to list about twenty minutes into the journey before capsizing. High waves and bad weather have hampered search efforts.
Spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho posted a video of rescue effort on Twitter. He said original estimates for the number missing was at least 70, but it was difficult to know without a manifest.
Protests are growing among relatives of those who were on board. 61-year-old Muhaimin told the AP he lost eight members of his family, including two sons, their wives, and children. “My sons, my daughter-in-laws and my grandchildren have been the victims of greedy businessmen who just want to take advantage of the holiday season without thinking of people’s safety,” he said.
“It would not happen if they follow the rules. But they made money over our misery.”
Suwarni, whose 20-year-old son and his girlfriend were on the ferry, also told the news wire that search and rescue operations are slow and insufficient. “Millions of questions keep me from sleeping,” she said, “Why a boat for just 50 people is allowed to be loaded with almost 200 people plus dozens of motorcycles…What kind of government is this that can’t protect their own people from unnecessary accidents?”
Ferry and boat accidents happen frequently in Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, due to poor enforcement of safety regulations.