POLEWALI, Indonesia (AFP) — Around 250 people missing after a ferry capsized in heavy seas off Indonesia's Sulawesi island are feared dead, officials said Monday as bad weather hampered the search for survivors.
As rescuers scoured the sea, survivors told how they escaped when disaster struck as they slept -- some by clinging to bunches of bananas.
Transport Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal said there was little hope any of the missing passengers and crew would be found alive more than 24 hours after the 700-tonne ferry sank off western Sulawesi.
"It seems that due to the weather conditions the chance is little but we still hope," he added.
He said 22 survivors had been rescued so far, including the captain and 17 passengers, but there was no sign of almost 250 other passengers and crew who were on board when the Teratai Prima listed and sank early Sunday.
Freaque wave has not been suggested, but storm waves must be part of the cause:
Survivors said the ferry suddenly lurched to one side and flipped over as it was bashed by waves up to four metres (13 feet) high.
The ferry, operated by private company PT Nur Budi and built in 1999, was about 50 kilometres (30 miles) off Majene, western Sulawesi, when authorities lost contact with it around 2:00 am on Sunday morning (1800 GMT Saturday).
It was sailing from Pare-Pare in South Sulawesi bound for Samarinda in East Kalimantan, on Borneo island.
A lucky survivor had been rescued:
Survivor Yulianus Mangande, 29, said he was woken by the sound of the boat listing and had little time to react before it overturned around 3:30 am.
"I felt that the ferry was listing to the left, then suddenly it turned upside down. I had to swim in the dark in heavy seas until the morning," he said.
He said he was found by fishermen at around 11:00 am.
Another one, Muhammad Yusuf, 38, told his story:
"I jumped into the sea before the ship turned upside down. I saw a number of people were panicking and screaming for help as the ferry was listing and lost its balance."
This is scary, the ferry is less than 10 years old and it went up-side-down. I recently stated in an interview that disaster like the movie "Poseidon" was only fiction, it is unlikely to see a large boat go upside-down. Well it happened to a ferry boat. Hopefully investigations will disclose the cause and what was really happened in this disaster.
In the mean time let's pray for the ones that has not yet been rescued.