Trapped Indonesian ferry with 800 on board dislodged: Military

Indonesian rescuers working on the KM Sirimau, that ran aground off the coast of Lembata, on May 19, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

MAUMERE, INDONESIA (AFP) - An Indonesian ferry carrying 800 people that had run aground was dislodged on Thursday (May 19) and continued on its journey, the military said.

KM Sirimau, with 784 passengers and 55 crew members on board, was dislodged from shallow waters off East Nusa Tenggara province at noon, the head of local naval base Dwi Yoga told AFP.

"With hard work, KM Sirimau which had been stuck for two days was released at 12 pm Central Indonesia Time and it is now heading to the nearest port in Lewoleba," he said.

The ferry was later taken to Lewoleba port on the island of Lembata for checks before continuing its journey to the town of Maumere on the island of Flores.

"Praise to God, the boat is now free and we are heading back to Lewoleba. We almost arrived now," passenger Itha Tating told AFP on the phone.

Passengers had started to worry after being stuck on the boat for days, Ms Tating said, adding that a woman was panicking because she ran out of milk formula for her five-month-old.

"The waves were very strong this morning. I got scared and very dizzy from seasickness," Ms Tating said.

The military boarded on Thursday morning to distribute water and snacks for the passengers, including children and the elderly.

"The passengers had started to panic because they had been stuck on the boat for more than 24 hours," Mr Yoga said.

Efforts to free the boat finally succeeded after a tugboat sent by state-owned shipping company PT Pelni arrived to help.

Rescuers waited for the tide to rise before they towed the ferry, Mr Yoga added.

Marine accidents are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, where people rely on ferries and other boats to travel despite poor safety standards.

In 2018, about 160 people drowned when a ferry sank into the depths of one of the world's deepest lakes on Sumatra island.

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