Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian Navy headquarters have deployed two warships and a helicopter to support the search and evacuation of the victims of the Middle East immigration boat which went down in Prigi waters, Trenggalek sub-district, East Java.

Navy information chief Commodore Untung Suropati said in Jakarta Sunday that the two warships, KRI Untung Suropati-372 and KRI Oswald Siahaan-354, are from the Eastern Fleet Command (Koarmatim).

"Besides, we had also sent out a Navy helicopter," he added.

Up to Sunday morning, 33 of the 215 crew members have been found and for the time being provided shelter at the PPN (Nusantara Fish Port) at Prigi port.

The passengers of the ship were thought to be Middle East immigrants heading for Australia. Some of them may have been Afghans and Turks. Up to Sunday afternoon, hundreds of passengers were still missing. The East Java National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said it did not know the exact number of the passengers because of the lack of a passenger manifest.

But it was said that more than 200 passengers who had been rescued were on board when the boat left the Middle East a year before.

Very bad weather and high waves had been posing serious obstacles to seeking and evacuating the victims.

The BKPM had warned the evacuation of the high waves in the Prigi coastal area.

"The waves have reached a height of 0.5-2.5 meters besides heavy down pours. This is a very dangerous condition for shipping, especially small boats," an official of the meteorology, climatology and geophysics station in Surabaya Eko Prasetyo said.

He said the waves in the East Java waters had been increasing from 0.3-1.3 to 0.5-3 meters in height.

However, Eko said, because of that the waters north and south of East Java also have hard rain, under which condition it became extremely difficult to evacuate the victims quickly.

Especially that the sea south of East Java in the Pacitan-Trenggalek area had been flowing at a rate of 5-25 centimeters per second, from to west to east, and slightly to the south or the middle on the high seas.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli Radja
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