Where: Makassar Strait, Indonesia
January 12, 2009 : An Indonesian ferry, the ‘Teratai Prima’ was struck by Cyclone Charlotte shortly before dawn on Sunday, January 11. It was making an overnight journey between the islands of Sulawesi and Borneo, carrying 250 passengers, 17 crew and cargo. Before the military search and rescue operations began at daybreak, fishermen managed to rescue eighteen passengers and four crew members. At the last count, 34 people were found alive, and 232 people are still missing and believed to be dead.
Survivors said the boat was thrashed by waves that were around four meters high. Among those who were rescued was the captain of the ship. He said the boat sank so quickly that the crew did not get a chance to tell passengers, most of whom were asleep at the time, to put on life-jackets. The captain is under investigation for having ignored storm warnings.
The Makassar Strait is a strait between the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi in Indonesia, north of the Java Sea. The country is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, and boats are a major form of transport. They are often overcrowded, with poor safety standards. There have been several accidents at sea in the recent past in Indonesia. In December 2006, a ferry carrying over 600 people sank, with hardly any survivors.