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31 missing in Indonesia speedboat accident

Three bodies and a survivor had been picked up by late on Sunday, while rescue workers plucked four more bodies from rough water this morning. In total seven bodies and one survivor have been recovered. Most of the passengers were Chinese people working for a local fishing company.

The Dolphin, believed to have been carrying 35 people, sank on Wednesday after it was hit by large waves during bad weather while journeying from Dobo Island to the Tual district in southern Maluku province, the state-run Antara news agency reported.  “A ban for sail was issued at that time because of bad weather,” Aru police chief Senior Adjunct Commissioner Solihin said, according to local media reports. Mr Solihin, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, accused the captain and crew of the Dolphin of ignoring the ban, and sailing out through an unsupervised dock. He added that the speedboat’s departure was not reported to the harbour master.

Today local fishermen joined the rescue workers to help in continuing their search for the missing people, said Bram Amahoru of the Dobo harbour master’s office. But heavy rains, strong winds and waves as high as 5 metres were seriously hampering the search operation. "At least 27 people were still missing and an intensive search was conducted using navy aircraft and fishing vessels," another port official said, adding that the bodies had been sent to the local general hospital in Dobo.

Sea accidents are common in Indonesia, the world's largest nation made up of several islands, in large part because of the lax enforcement of safety regulations. The south east Asian nation’s 234 million people are spread across 17,000 islands and are rely heavily on a network of ships and boats, which have a poor safety record. As many as 335 people were killed when a heavily overloaded ferry sank off Sulawesi Island in January last year. In December 2006 a ferry went down in a storm off the coast of Java, killing more than 500 people.

On Boxing Day, 2004, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, caused a tremendously powerful tsunami in the Indian Ocean that devastated 12 Asian countries. At least 225,000 people died in the disaster, and millions were left homeless. Indonesia was the heaviest hit, with more than 150,000 casualties. Many of the deaths were in the war-torn province of Aceh.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children