Ten foreigners, five locals missing after tour boat sinks in Indonesia
By Presi Mandari, AFP
August 18, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
JAKARTA -- Ten foreign tourists and five Indonesians were missing on Sunday after a boat sank between islands in the east of the country, while 10 others had been rescued, search and rescue officials said.
The vessel hit a reef and went down on Saturday en route from Lombok island to Komodo island, the home of the Komodo dragon — the world's biggest lizard and a draw for tourists.
Those rescued were from New Zealand, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and France, said Budiawan, a search and rescue official who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
The nationalities of the foreigners still missing were not immediately clear. The missing Indonesians were four boat crew members and a tour guide.
"A tourist boat with 25 people on board capsized while sailing from Lombok island to Komodo island," said Budiawan, who is based on Lombok.
"We rescued 10 foreigners while 10 other foreigners and five Indonesians remain missing. We launched a search operation as soon as we received the report this morning."
The boat went down near Bima, a town on Sumbawa Island. Suryaman, a search and rescue official in the town, said the boat sank in the early hours of Saturday but those rescued were not recovered until the evening of the same day.
"The incident took place ... when the boat hit a reef and sank. Fishermen managed to rescue five of them alive later at night on Saturday, and five other foreigners were rescued by a sailing boat," the official told AFP.
Another search and rescue agency official on Lombok said five of the rescued foreigners were at a hospital in Bima while the five others were on Sangeang island, about 45 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Bima.
The British embassy said it was aware that its nationals might be involved.
"We are in touch with the local authorities and stand ready to provide consular assistance," a spokesman said.
Komodo island is one of several islands that make up the Komodo National Park, a protected area that is home to the Komodo dragon. The huge lizards can grow up to three meters (10 feet) long and have a venomous bite.
Indonesia relies heavily on boats to connect its more than 17,000 islands, but has a poor maritime safety record.
Two vessels sank last month in different parts of the archipelago as millions traveled for the Muslim Eid holiday, leaving at least 36 people dead.
Fatal boat sinkings involving asylum-seeker vessels trying to make the treacherous sea crossing from Indonesia to Australia are also common.
However, boat sinkings involving foreign tourists are rare, with accidents in Indonesia's booming aviation sector more of a danger for overseas visitors in recent years.
Last year a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea and split in two as it came in to land on the resort island of Bali. Dozens of people were hurt but there were no fatalities.