SEMARANG, Indonesia – Suyatno spent four days at sea, clinging to his 6-year-old son and praying rescuers would reach them after an Indonesian ferry packed with hundreds of passengers capsized in a violent storm.
“Even though I was weak, I never let go of my boy,” said Suyatno after a navy search team found him, his son, Anggi, and 10 other exhausted survivors on an offshore oil rig and brought them to shore Wednesday. One of them is believed to be the captain of the ferry and he was being questioned by navy officers, navy spokesman Lt. Col. Tony Syaiful said today.
They survived on dry bread and emergency military rations found adrift in the stormy Java Sea, until being picked up about 120 miles from where the ferry went down late Friday.
Syaiful also said today that a fishing vessel picked up 15 more survivors on Wednesday and they were well and resting in a health clinic on a small island in the Java Sea.
Authorities say more than 600 people were aboard when the ferry sank after being pounded by waves for 10 hours on its way from Indonesia’s section of Borneo island to the main island of Java.
More than 200 people have been found alive, most of them plucked from life rafts or clinging to debris, said Col. Jan Simamora, the head of the search and rescue mission.
People who have something to keep them afloat can survive for days in Indonesia’s tropical waters and – with only a dozen bodies found so far – Simamora held out hope more people would be rescued.
The exhausted and dehydrated survivors had little to say as they returned to land Wednesday.
Though Suyatno managed to save his son, his 27-year-old wife disappeared in the dark, raging waters as the vessel submerged.
It was not clear when the father and son reached the rig or how they managed to get there. Many of those rescued clambered into life rafts and took to the sea as the ferry sank.
Survivors recalled the horror of the ferry’s last minutes and the struggle to stay alive – and at least two said many of the victims were trapped after 16-foot waves crashed over the deck. The ferry then capsized, taking nearly two hours to go down.
Ribut Rahardjo, 35, a plantation worker, said he smashed a cabin window to escape.
Indonesia has been wracked by seasonal storms in recent weeks that have caused deadly landslides, flooding and at least six maritime accidents in different parts of the sprawling archipelago.
Several planes and ships were recalled Wednesday due to poor conditions, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cautioned transportation officials to exert caution in coming days because more high winds and waves were forecast.