Tholib Vatelehan, the agency’s spokesman, informed journalists that the local fishermen's fishing boats were deployed to rescue 54 of the 143 onboard this ill-fated roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) vessel on Friday.
Vatelehan was quick to point to the total figure of rescued passengers having surpassed the figure listed on the official manifest.
The manifest indicated merely 111 passengers onboard the ill-fated ship constituting 100 adults, six children, and five infants, Vatelehan remarked.
"Thus, lack of clarity still exists on the exact count of passengers that MV Santika Nusantara had onboard," he stated.
As of Friday, the SAR workers, facilitated by two SAR vessels, continued their search efforts to locate passengers still afloat in the waters of the sea around the accident site.
Also onboard MV Santika Nusantara were 84 vehicles ravaged by fire in the Masalembu waters while sailing from Surabaya, East Java, to the South Kalimantan city of Banjarmasin on Thursday at around 8:45 p.m. local time.
Several fatal accidents have continued to challenge Indonesia's reputation in transportation safety. Last year, Indonesia had borne witness to a series of fatal accidents, including the incident on June 18, 2018, involving MV "Sinar Bangun," reportedly carrying onboard 202 passengers, that had met its watery grave at the bottom of Lake Toba in North Sumatra Province.
Consequently, three passengers lost their lives, while 164 others had gone missing. There were only 21 survivors of the tragedy that struck at a time when the Indonesian government was making all-out efforts for promoting Lake Toba to be one of the 10 priority destinations "Beyond Bali."
The Lion Air JT 610 aircraft, with 189 passengers aboard, crashed into the Java Sea off Tanjung Karawang, West Java Province, on October 29, 2018, affecting Indonesians and foreign nationals.
In connection with the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft crash, the Australian federal government had also given instructions to its bureaucrats in Indonesia to not fly with Lion Air and its subsidiaries, as published in the West Australian in 2018.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla has also drawn serious attention to always prioritizing the safety-first principle as it, indeed, is emblematic of the interests of Indonesians and foreign visitors keen on travelling to cities and towns within the archipelago. Related news: Minister does trial test of local-made radar to anticipate ship accidents
Related news: Government to evaluate ferries after several boat accidents
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