The Jakarta Post
Dozens of road accidents over the Christmas break have left more than 50 people dead since holiday exodus began last week.
The highest death toll was recorded in an accident in South Sumatra on Monday evening that saw a bus plunge into a ravine in the province’s Pagar Alam district, killing 31 people and injuring 13 others.
The bus, which left Bengkulu province for Palembang, carried dozens of passengers when it suddenly careered into an 80-meter ravine under an uphill road with sharp declines and fell into Lematang River.
Passengers who survived the accident recounted that they woke up to darkness and coldness as river water crept inside the partially submerged bus.
Aldi Pratama, 18, recalled bashing his head on the window next to his seat in his attempt to break out of the sinking bus. He was stuck on one side of the bus with seven other survivors, he said.
“We called out for help for about one hour. People eventually came and evacuated us [from inside the bus] using rubber tires,” Aldi said at Basemah Hospital in South Sumatra.
Ridwan, another survivor, said he woke up to a scream coming from a female passenger moments before the bus plunged and submerged into the river.
“I can’t recall how I got out of the bus. I just called out for help for about an hour. Maybe it was fate that I survived,” said Ridwan, who rode the bus to visit his family’s home in Banyuasin, South Sumatra.
As of Wednesday, authorities have retrieved 31 dead bodies following two days of search and rescue operations in the area, Palembang Search and Rescue Agency official Benteng Telau said as reported by Antara.
According to the Pagar Alam Police, the bus had around 50 people on board the night of the accident.
The dead victims and the injured victims have been taken to Pagaralam's Basemah General Hospital. Twenty-five dead bodies were handed over to their families on Wednesday.
"There is a possibility that the number of victims will increase," Benteng said.
Pagar Alam Police spokesperson chief Brig. Paino said the U-shaped Lematang route hairpin where the tragedy took place had seen its fair share of similar accidents.
In 2017, families of Indonesian Military members fell victim to a similar accident in the area.
“Our preliminary investigation found that the bus had been speeding on the evening of the accident. The vehicle then went straight [into the ravine] and plunged into the nearby river,” Paino said.
The latest accident adds to a long list of road accidents involving buses in the past year, with 13 accidents killing more than 70 people nationwide and injuring dozens of others.
Separately, Rita, a representative of bus company PT. Sriwijaya Pratama Express, said its management would provide compensation for both the dead and injured victims through its cooperation with state-owned insurance company Jasa Raharja.
She said the company had yet to determine the exact cause of the accident. However, she assured that prior to the accident, the bus' driver and co-drivers, as well as the vehicle itself were all in good condition.
Prior to the deadly bus accident, the National Police Traffic Corps (Korlantas) recorded that as of Monday, twenty-three people had died in 47 traffic accidents during the Christmas and year-end exodus that started over the weekend.
Data from Korlantas shows the accidents involved 52 motorcycles, 19 cargo vehicles, 11 cars and six buses.
Argo said during this holiday season, the police had deployed additional officers to prevent traffic accidents. Thus far, the officers have issued more than 3,300 tickets for traffic violations and more than 3,500 warnings.
“With such measures, we expect to reduce the number of traffic accidents and their effects,” Argo said.
Argo also advised holiday travelers and motorists to be on alert when on the road.
“Motorists must remain alert, be healthy, have a license and registration and obey all regulations. By doing this, God willing, they can enjoy Christmas and New Year’s with friends and family.” (rfa)