Indonesia Boat Accident Leaves at Least 15 Dead

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An overloaded passenger boat capsized off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi early Monday, killing 15 people.

The small wooden boat capsized just after midnight, said Muhammad Arafah, a local search and rescue official. He said it had been bringing people from one village to another in Central Buton, a regency, or administrative district, in southeastern Sulawesi.

The other 33 people aboard the boat had been accounted for by Monday afternoon, Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency said. It was not immediately clear how many passengers the vessel had been approved to carry.

Thousands of people in Central Buton had gone to their villages for a local celebration on Sunday, many of them traveling by fishing or passenger boats.

Television news showed footage of people on fishing boats retrieving bodies in the overnight darkness, and grieving relatives waiting for information at a port and at a local hospital.

Ferries are a common form of transportation in Indonesia, an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands. With safety standards generally lax and overcrowding common, accidents occur frequently.

In 2018, an overcrowded ferry with about 200 people on board sank in a lake in North Sumatra Province, killing 167 people.

In one of Indonesia’s worst recorded disasters, an overcrowded passenger ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people aboard. Only 20 people survived.

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.