JAKARTA/KUPANG: Seven people died including three children when a boat carrying dozens of Christians celebrating Easter sank Friday off eastern Indonesia, police said.
The devotees were holding a traditional sea ritual in waters off Flores Island when one of the wooden boats sank before noon, district police chief Dewa Putu Gede Artha said.
Fifty-three people were rescued in the incident which happened off the coast from Larantuka town, in the East Flores district of East Nusa Tenggara province.
“We found seven bodies, including three children,” Gede Artha told AFP, adding that the boat was on its way to join other vessels for the Easter celebration.
The exact number onboard is not known, and rescuers were still searching for possible survivors, the police chief said, with officials gathering information from relatives about those who may be missing.
District disaster management agency chief Paulus Igo Geroda said that four people remained missing, based on relatives’ accounts, and that the other 30 to 40 boats which joined the ritual have returned safely.
The Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands has a poor sea safety record, and fatal accidents are common.
Rescuers and fishermen saved 30 injured people who were rushed to a hospital, local police spokesman Lt. Col. Okto Riwu said. The fishing boat was designed to hold only 30 people but had more than 70 aboard.
With strong currents and high waves off Flores island, the boat began to tip and many people panicked. It sank shortly after a 2-meter (6.5-feet) wave crashed into it. The accident occurred close to the shore packed with hundreds of villagers watching the ceremony.
The rescuers were continuing to look for more survivors. The seven dead bodies pulled from the water included three children and a nun.
Boats and ferries are popular transportation in the vast Indonesian archipelago, and accidents due to overcrowding and poor safety standards are common.