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Indonesia churches extend help to ferry tragedy victims

More than 180 still missing believed to be in wreck of sunken vessel

Indonesia churches extend help to ferry tragedy victims

Anxious families of passengers who were on the ferry that sank on Toba Lake wait for news about their loved ones last week. (Photo supplied)


Catholic and Protestant churches have rushed to provide assistance and counseling for survivors and families of those killed or who are presumed dead after an overloaded boat capsized in Lake Toba, North Sumatra, last week.

Capuchin Father Markus Manurung, director of the Caritas branch of Medan Archdiocese told ucanews.com that they moved quickly to provide assistance after the passenger ferry Sinar Bangun sank while crossing the lake in bad weather.

Three passengers were confirmed dead, 19 survived, while 184 people were still missing, presumed dead.

Rescuers said June 25 that they think they have found the ferry 450 meters below the surface near to the spot where it went down. Underwater drones would be sent down to confirm the findings, they said.

It is also believed that most of, if not all, the missing are still inside the vessel.

The Sinar Bangun sank on June 18 with more than 200 passengers on board, way more than its official capacity of 43 passengers.

It was unlicensed and also sailed without a passenger manifest, according to police.

Father Manurung said nearby Catholic parishes were currently working with local Protestant churches to provide counseling to the victims' families.

"They were also contributing food and other aid," he said.

The Ministry of Social Affairs, meanwhile said it would provided assistance of 15,000,000 rupiah (US$ 1,060) to the family of each victim.

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Father Manurung also accused the authorities as being as much to blame for the tragedy as the ferry operator.

Nothing has been done for decades to try and prevent something like this happening, he said.

There are no standard operating procedures and boats are not checked regularly, he said.

"Passengers do not know what the safety regulations — if there are any — are," the priest said.

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