Dozens missing in Indonesia as ferry sinks

Dozens of people are missing from a ferry that sank on Indonesia's Lake Toba, casting a tragic pall over holidays marking the end of the Muslim holy month.

Witness says vessel was rocked by heavy waves and may have come in contact with another boat

A woman cries as she finds out her family are listed as missing, at the Lake Toba ferry port in the province of North Sumatra in Indonesia on Tuesday. (Lazuardy Fahmi/AFP/Getty Images)

Rescuers searching Tuesday for dozens of people missing after a ferry sank on Indonesia's Lake Toba found bags, jackets, an ID card and other items in the waters but no new survivors, casting a tragic pall over holidays marking the end of the Muslim holy month.

Police said in a statement that 18 people were rescued and one body was recovered, unchanged from figures released by disaster and police officials after the ferry sank on Monday evening. It released the names of 94 people confirmed as missing but said the figure was expected to rise as information from relatives is compiled.

Cellphone video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency showed the crew of another ferry attempting to rescue people struggling in the waters shortly after the sinking but being hampered by bad weather and rough waters. Distraught relatives gathered at major ferry docks on the lake, hoping for news of missing family members.

Budiawan, the head of the search and rescue agency in the nearby city of Medan, said the overcrowded boat was filled with an estimated 150 people and 55 motorbikes. Officials are relying on reports from the families of victims and survivors to estimate the number of victims. Budiawan, who uses one name, said the vessel did not have a passenger manifest.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the boat sank at about 5:30 p.m. Monday as it sailed from the mainland to an island.

Rescue teams search for victims on Lake Toba on Tuesday. (Jon Nst/AFP/Getty Images)

'I'm afraid my family is dead'

A survivor identified by Indonesian television as Juwita Sumbayak said the vessel was rocked by high waves and was hit a by a wooden boat before suddenly sinking.

"I was desperate. I was scared to death. I'm afraid my family is dead," she said, weeping.

The 1,145-square-kilometre Lake Toba, formed out of an ancient super volcano, is a popular sightseeing destination on the island of Sumatra.

Tens of millions of Indonesians return to their hometowns and take holidays at the end of Ramadan.

The police statement said that on Tuesday morning the search had found several bags, including one containing a cellphone and ID, jackets and other items of clothing as well as traces of oil and a blue bucket and jerry cans suspected to be from the sunken ferry KM Sinar Bangun.

It said bad weather continues to hamper the search of the lake, which has depths of more than 400 metres.

Officials say more than half a dozen vessels and 350 people including search and rescue personnel, police, soldiers and fishermen are involved in the search.

Ferry tragedies are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, with weak enforcement of safety regulations often to blame.

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