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Hundreds Feared Dead in Ferry Sinking in Java Sea

As many as 400 passengers of the ferry M/V “Senopati Nusantara” are still missing in the wake of last Friday’s sinking in the Java Sea, off Semarang, Central Java. Search and rescue operations, led by eight Indonesian navy frigates, two Nomad aircrafts and a helicopter were continuing on Wednesday in an area to the east of the Java Sea. The crowded Indonesian ferry reportedly broke apart and sank in a violent storm that tossed the vessel and buried its decks in huge waves. In a final radio transmission to port authorities, the vessel’s Master was reported to have said that the ship was badly damaged and capsizing.

The ill-fated ferry was transporting passengers from Kumai in Central Kalimantan to Semarang when it sank. The vessel went down in heavy sea and wind conditions which initially had hampered search and rescue efforts. Local media reports indicate that about 200 passengers had so far been rescued and 11 bodies recovered from the area where the tragedy occurred. The vessel, which can reportedly accommodate 850 passengers, had almost 600 passengers and crew on board at the time of the incident.

The journey from Borneo to Java normally takes about two days. At Semarang, the ferry's intended destination, hundreds of worried relatives and friends waited for news about the search and rescue operation. The tropical sea waters surrounding Indonesia are generally between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. With proper flotation devices, passengers could potentially survive many days in the water. Search and rescue teams reportedly dropped supplies and survival gear in the area in the hopes of reaching some of these survivors.

Indonesia depends heavily on the use of ferries and other marine transport to move people and cargo between the thousands of islands which make up its landmass. Chronic overcrowding on some of these vessels makes accurate reporting on cargoes and numbers of passengers almost impossible. The sinking of the 1992-built “Senopati Nusantara” comes in the immediate wake of another, similar maritime disaster off the coast of Sumatra.