Search for missing boat passengers ends

Wahyoe Boediwardhana and Indra Harsaputra
The Jakarta Post,
The Archipelago
Tue, December 27 2011, 11:18 PM

After a 10-day search, the Surabaya National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) officially called off its efforts to scour the sea for missing victims of a boat accident involving allegedly illegal immigrants.

The boat carrying more than 200 asylum seekers from the Middle East capsized in Prigi waters off Trenggalek on Dec. 17. They were reportedly heading for Australia.

Surabaya Basarnas head Sutrisno told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the 10-day search effort, involving members of the Navy, Air Force and the National Police, located 101 dead victims and 49 survivors.

The joint search team initially planned to scour the sea for seven days after the accident, but when corpses began to be found as far away as Bali, the search was extended another three days.

“But the SAR team has discovered no victims in the last two days, so the search effort was officially halted today,” said Sutrisno.

However, Sutrisno informed fishermen in waters off East Java, Bali and Mataram to remove any bodies they found at sea and report the matter to Basarnas.

Three Navy vessels — the KRI Oswald, the KRI Untung Suropati and the KRI Pandrong — joined the search as well as three helicopters operated by Basarnas, the National Police and the Air Force.

At the East Java Bhayangkara Police Hospital, the Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) unit was reported to have identified two corpses.

However, East Java Police Medical And Health Affairs head Sr. Comr. Didi Agus Mintadi declined to give details of the two bodies, saying he would release the data on Tuesday.

Earlier, the East Java Police DVI identified the body of an Iranian female named Khulsum Purbani, 27, based on ante- and postmortem data.

Didi also rectified the number of bodies received by the Bhayangkara Hospital from 85 to 84 bodies, saying that one body bag initially counted contained the limbs of another person.

The number of bodies taken to the Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar, Bali, was 19, thus bringing the total number of bodies found to 103 from the accident.

The data is different to that of the Surabaya Basarnas, which recorded 101.

“Police officers who found them probably did not report to us. But the official data is 101 bodies,” said Sutrisno.

The 19 bodies currently kept at Sanglah General Hospital have undergone autopsies. Data on them has been sent to the East Java Police Medical and Health Affairs Agency to match ante-and postmortem data so as to prevent data error.

According to Didi, no more bodies of the illegal immigrants have been found due to rough seas, making it impossible to find them.

In Banyuwangi, fish sellers have complained of a drop in sales due to the recovery of dozens of dead asylum seekers in Banyuwangi waters.

People’s appetite for fish has drastically dropped due to rumors that the fish caught by fishermen had eaten the victims’ body parts.

At the Puger Beach resort in Jember regency, East Java, tour operators said the number of visitors had increased several-fold as hundreds of people wanted to see the ill-fated Barokah boat, stranded in Plawangan waters, Puger Beach, Jember.

The Jember Water Police intend to tow the wreckage to the pier for investigation. However, the boat cannot be towed until the tide rises, which is estimated to take place on Dec. 29.


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