A navy ship belonging to the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) has been dispatched to locate a stranded motor boat carrying around 100 illegal immigrants in waters off Raas Island in Madura, East Java.
The KRI Tongkol 831 vessel departed from Surabaya at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, and is estimated to reach the stranded motorboat at approximately 11:00 p.m. The ship is carrying 49 personnel on board, as well as several members of Surabaya Search and Rescue (Basarnas).
On Wednesday evening, Basarnas had dispatched a team to find the stranded vessel based on the coordinates given by the crew members. However, the boat was unsuccessful in its search and returned to Surabaya. According to Basarnas, their boat could not overcome bad wether and conditions out at sea.
Basarnas then returned with the Navy and a Navy ship to find the motorboat, which had been stranded for three days due to engine failure.
Indonesia’s Eastern Fleet (Armatim) spokesman, Lt. Col. Marine Yayan Sugiana confirmed that his team had left to assist the SAR team.
“The ship owned by the Basarnas team is made out of fiberglass. It could not overcome the high waves found around Raas Island waters, which can sometimes be more than two meters high,” he said.
Basarnas head Sutrisno said that his team and the navy would focus on rescuing all passengers. It had yet to identify where the boat departed from and the nationalities of the immigrants. However, Basarnas predicted that the immigrants came from the Middle East and were heading to Australia to seek asylum.
“According to our sources, several local fishermen in Goa-Goa Island have previously assisted them,” Sutrisno said.
Indonesian waters have become asylum-seekers’ preferred route in their efforts to reach Australia, even though the seas are not friendly maritime zones.
In December last year, another 25-meter long and 5-meter wide timber ship carrying 250 illegal immigrants sank after being hit by a 4-meter tidal wave in the waters of Prigi in Trenggalek, East Java.
Only 49 passengers survived, while 96 bodies were recovered from the ocean. The rest of the passengers were never found. (fzm/lfr)