"The marine and air police unit from the Maluku regional police deployed several speed boats to help find the missing passengers of the Inarissa speed boat," the secretary of the regional disaster mitigation agency (BPBD), Kifly Wakano, said when asked for his confirmation about the incident by ANTARA News.
The search operation was focused on the waters around Pombo island which was the scene of the incident to find the wreckage of the boat.
"The operation was a bit hampered by darkness, quite strong winds and high waves" he said.
"Therefore we constantly informed the development of the weather from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) service in Ambon to all district heads and city mayors and a number of media in Ambon for public attention," he said.
Kifly said the BPBD had alerted operators of sea transportation service of possible extreme weather from January 23 to 25.
Based on BMKG analysis the waves in Banda, Kei waters, Tanimbar waters, Aru sea, Serang waters could be two to five meters high on the period and four to six meter high in Arafura waters on January 25.
"Skippers and would-be passengers must not force themselves to sail if conditions are bad for the sake of their safety," he said.
The Kairatu police sector chief, in the western part of Seram, Yanni Prinussa, confirmed that nine people had gone missing.
He said 11 other passengers who were safe had already been evacuated to a local health care center.
Yanni said according to survivors the boat carried 20 passengers including the crew.