Families demand recovery of bodies of Lake Toba victims
The Jakarta Post
The families of the victims of the ferry sinking in Lake Toba, North Sumatra, have urged the joint search and rescue team to recover the bodies following confirmation of the location of the sunken vessel.
The overloaded KM Sinar Bangun capsized, reportedly after encountering heavy seas, and sank on June 18.
A grieving relative, Marasi Gultom, said her family would be disappointed if the team abandoned the corpses at the bottom of the lake.
“Why would they abandon the victims? Don’t they [the joint search and rescue team] already know the position [of the ship] by now? Why haven’t they recovered the bodies yet?” Marasi said on Friday.
Marasi, who lost 13 family members in the disaster, went on to explain that the team could use several methods to recover the bodies from the lake, such as by trawling with a large net tied to a ship. “Hopefully some of the victims would be caught in the net,” she added.
Marasi has been waiting at the port of Tigaras for days checking on the progress of the search efforts. While accepting that all the missing passengers are almost certainly dead, she still holds onto the hope of finding their bodies so her family can hold proper funerals.
Jhon Clinton Simarmata, another bereft family member, also hoped that all of the victims’ bodies could be recovered from the lake immediately.
“We hope the search and rescue team is able to recover the victims’ bodies,” Jhon said, adding that he hoped the body of his brother, 28-year-old Crisman Reynold Simarmata, could be retrieved from the lake soon.
Their aspirations were expressed following a discussion among the victims’ families about whether to demand recovery or leave the remains where they lie and prepare a monument at the lake instead.
On Thursday, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was able to identify objects that resembled bodies at a depth of 454 to 460 meters below the surface.
The deputy commander of the Jala Bengkala detachment of the Navy’s Denjaka specialized squad, Lt. Col. Samson Sitohang, said that his team was considering possible methods to retrieve the presumed bodies of the victims from the lake.
“We need to make an extra effort to retrieve the presumed bodies of the victims because of the extreme contours and depth of the lake,” he said.
Deputy head of the National Search and Rescue Agency’s (Basarnas) Operational and Alertness Division, Brig. Gen. Nugroho Budi Wiryanto, said the ROV had recorded some eight to 10 bodies lying at a depth of 455 meters.
“The decomposition of the bodies is very slow because the lake bottom is extremely cold. That’s why the victims’ bodies have not floated to the surface,” Nugroho said in Tigaras on Friday.
The lack of proper equipment has also hindered progress in recovering bodies. The head of Medan search and rescue team, Budiawan, said his team was unable to recover the bodies because of a lack of equipment. “We don’t have any advanced equipment capable of raising the bodies from a depth of 450 meters,” he told The Jakarta Post.
To overcome the challenge, Budiawan said, the search and rescue team would attempt to retrieve the bodies using a trawl net tied to a ferry.
“We will drop the trawl net from KM Sumut I and KM Sumut II. Then, dozens of our volunteers will pull up the net from the boat,” he said, adding that this method would take longer and require more effort.
However, Budiawan also said that this plan had yet to proceed as he needed to discuss it with the victims’ families beforehand.
Basarnas has reported that 164 passengers of the ferry are missing, 21 people were rescued with three confirmed fatalities. (dpk)
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