JAKARTA - Family members of three missing divers, including a Singaporean, on Friday (Nov 8) joined Indonesian rescue vessels as the search was expanded to the waters of neighbouring Lampung province in Sumatra.
"As of 3pm local time (4pm Singapore time), there was no sign of the missing divers," said Mr Muhammad Zaenal Arifin, a senior official at Indonesia's search-and-rescue agency Basarnas.
Six tourists went diving last Sunday in two groups, but the missing Singaporean and two Chinese nationals did not return to base on Sangiang Island in Banten province, near Jakarta.
The two groups started their dive at about 1.30pm local time but only one group returned to the surface at about 2.45pm.
Basarnas believes one diving group went north of Sangiang and that the missing trio headed towards the south of the island. They might have encountered strong undercurrents which flow from the sea north of Java and the Strait of Malacca into waters between Sumatra and Java islands.
On Thursday, Basarnas deployed 19 divers, up from 13 on Wednesday, and is sending more vessels to search the sea surface. Three helicopters were also deployed, from two previously.
"Families of the victims have joined the search boats. The relatives of the Singaporean victim - his child and in-laws - are currently on a search boat in waters off the Anak Krakatoa volcano as we speak," Mr Zaenal, who heads Basarnas' Banten chapter, told The Straits Times on Friday afternoon.
"They were on a search helicopter yesterday. We are facilitating victims' family members who want to join the search," Mr Zaenal also said.
A Basarnas search boat reached Sebesi island, in Lampung province, today, looking for any sign of the missing divers and interviewing residents. The relatives of the Chinese victims joined search personnel on this boat, Mr Zaenal said.
Search personnel interview villagers on islands they visit as a matter of course, in case they have helpful information, although Basarnas has also notified fishermen in the region about the missing divers.
Sangiang and Sebesi islands are in the Sunda Strait. The narrow waterway between Java and Sumatra that has strong undercurrents which have swept away divers in the past.
On Sept 8 last year, Mr James Ade Ignatius Salaka, 32, a North Jakarta resident diving off Sangiang island, was pulled away from his group by an unexpectedly strong undercurrent. He was later found dead. There were also fatal incidents of divers being drifted by undercurrents about five years ago and before that, according to Basarnas.