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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

World

Ten foreigners, five locals missing as Indonesia tour boat sinks
Andy Amaldan, AFP
Bima, Indonesia, August 17, 2014
First Published: 22:00 IST(17/8/2014)
Last Updated: 22:03 IST(17/8/2014)

Ten foreign tourists and five Indonesians were missing on Sunday after a boat sank as it travelled between islands in the east of the country, while 10 others have been rescued, search and rescue officials said.

The vessel went down on Saturday after being caught up in a storm en route from Lombok island to Komodo island, the home of the Komodo dragon -- the world's biggest lizard and a draw for tourists.

Those rescued were from New Zealand, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and France, said search and rescue official Budiawan, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. They had all received medical treatment, officials said.

The nationalities of the foreigners still missing was not immediately clear. The missing Indonesians were four boat crew members and a tour guide.

Bertrand Homassel, a French survivor, said the boat started sinking slowly after its hull was damaged in a storm on Friday night, and he and several others had to swim a long distance to a volcanic island to save themselves.

"Six people were in the lifeboat. The others climbed onto the roof of the boat, which had not completely sunk," he said, speaking from a hotel in Bima on Sumbawa island, where the survivors were taken after being rescued.

"We waited until midday on Saturday. We were five kilometres (three miles) from the coast -- there were many big waves separating us from the coast.

"People started to panic... Everyone took the decision to swim to the closest island, five kilometres away, where there was an erupting volcano."

He said that they swam for six hours and arrived on the island, Sangeang, as the sun was setting. They spent Saturday night there, surviving by drinking their own urine and eating leaves.

On Sunday, they attracted the attention of a passing boat by waving their life jackets, and were rescued and taken to Bima, he said.

"I was really very lucky," Homassel added.

Budiawan, the search and rescue official, said that 10 foreigners and five Indonesians were still missing after the boat sank, and efforts were ongoing to find them.

Suryaman, a search and rescue official in Bima, said five of the tourists were rescued by fishermen at night, and five others were saved by a sailing boat.

The British embassy said two British nationals had been admitted to hospital.

"We are in contact with the local authorities and stand ready to offer consular assistance to any other British nationals who may be involved," a spokesman said.

Komodo island is one of several islands that make up the Komodo National Park, a protected area that is home to the Komodo dragon. The huge lizards can grow up to three metres (10 feet) long and have a venomous bite.

Indonesia relies heavily on boats to connect its more than 17,000 islands, but has a poor maritime safety record.

Two vessels sank last month in different parts of the archipelago as millions travelled for the Muslim Eid holiday, leaving at least 36 people dead.

Fatal boat sinkings involving asylum-seeker vessels trying to make the treacherous sea crossing from Indonesia to Australia are also common.

But boat sinkings involving foreign tourists are rare, with accidents in Indonesia's booming aviation sector more of a danger for overseas visitors in recent years.


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