Death toll in Indonesia boat accident rises to 54 as dozens of bodies found

Officers evacuate the dead body of an Indonesian migrant worker as a speedboat from Malaysia sank off Batam Island, in Teluk Mata Ikan, Batam on Nov 2, 2016.
Officers evacuate the dead body of an Indonesian migrant worker as a speedboat from Malaysia sank off Batam Island, in Teluk Mata Ikan, Batam on Nov 2, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
A navy personnel looks for survivors during a search and rescue operation after a boat carrying Indonesian migrant workers capsized off Batam on Wednesday, near Nongsa, Batam, on Nov 3, 2016.
A navy personnel looks for survivors during a search and rescue operation after a boat carrying Indonesian migrant workers capsized off Batam on Wednesday, near Nongsa, Batam, on Nov 3, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Survivors wait for identification at a police station after their boat carrying nearly 100 suspected migrant workers capsized and sunk in Indonesian waters off Batam on Nov 2, 2016.
Survivors wait for identification at a police station after their boat carrying nearly 100 suspected migrant workers capsized and sunk in Indonesian waters off Batam on Nov 2, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BATAM, Indonesia (AFP) - The death toll from aboat accident in Indonesia has climbed to 54, an official said on Friday (Nov 4), after dozens of bodies were found floating in the ocean.

Search teams on Friday pulled another 36 corpses from the sea around Batam island, south of Singapore, near where the boat struck a reef and sunk more than two days ago, local police chief Sam Budi Gusdian told reporters.

The overcrowded boat was carrying three crew and 98 passengers, mostly Indonesian migrant workers, from Malaysia to Batam at the time of the accident.

Authorities managed to save 41 passengers and had hoped to find more alive before making the grisly discovery.

"Forty-one people have been found alive, while six remain missing. The rest died," Brigadier General Gusdian told reporters.

Only 12 passengers have been formally identified, he added. Among the dead were two young girls.

Police said the passengers were likely illegal Indonesian migrant workers returning from jobs in Malaysia, and the boat was over capacity at the time of the accident.

One of the crew members managed to survive and was being questioned by police, Brig Gen Gusdian said.

The Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is heavily dependent on boat transport, but safety standards are lax and fatal accidents common.

More than 60 people died in December when huge waves capsized a ferry charting a course through Sulawesi province.