October 22, 1997 in Nation/World

Rescuers Recover 26 Bodies From Site Of River Collison

Associated Press
 

Rescuers have recovered the bodies of 26 people who drowned after a ship collided with a tugboat on a river shrouded in smoke on the South Pacific island of Borneo, a news agency reported Tuesday.

Another four people were still missing from the accident Sunday on the Barito River, 550 miles northeast of Jakarta, the official Antara news agency reported.

Dozens of forest fires, many set by plantation owners and timber companies, have been raging on Borneo and other islands in recent months, filling the air with thick smog. Pollution from the fires has smothered much of Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia, Singapore, parts of the Philippines and southern Thailand, sending air pollution to dangerous levels.

The haze reduced visibility to just three to five yards when the boats collided, Antara said.

The ship was carrying 62 people, and most of the dead have not been identified because the ship did not have a passenger list, said J.S. Lamon, a local government spokesman. Most of those on board were farmers traveling to market.

Last month, 29 people died when two ships collided in the Straits of Malacca between the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula. Heavy haze was blamed in that accident also.

Four Malaysian cities, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, continued to have “unhealthy” levels of air pollution Tuesday. However, the pollution was moderate in the rest of the country, a vast improvement from last month, when some areas were at the “unhealthy” or “hazardous” levels for weeks.

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