DEATH TOLL REACHES 28 IN IRIAN JAYA SHIPWRECK

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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (August 23, 1999 - Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---Rescue workers have recovered 28 bodies from a Sorong regency river estuary where an overloaded motorized vessel overturned on Thursday.

A further four people were still missing as of 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Most of the victims were native Irianese.

Paul Tan, a cathedral priest, told The Jakarta Post from Sorong by telephone that four of the bodies were identified as members of the Ayfat tribe while nine others were from the Marey tribe.

"Some of the other victims must be from the Ayamaru tribe, but I don't have information on how many actually died in the accident," Paul said.

The vessel, with more than 100 passengers on board, sank two hours after departing Klamono on its way to Terminabuan regency. A port officer contacted by phone confirmed the accident, saying the ship's captain had not been found.

According to the Antara news agency, 74 people survived the accident. The figure, however, contradicted an earlier report by the news agency that said 90 survivors had been found.

The vessel was licensed to carry a maximum of 50 passengers.

Eddy R. Kudubun, head of the search and rescue team, said the search for the remaining missing passengers would continue despite fears they were already dead.

There is little hope of finding more survivors because of the big waves in the region.

"The search will not be concentrated at the scene of the accident, because the current would have carried the victims away," Kudubun said.

Earlier, on Saturday, the rescue team found 14 bodies from the ship wreckage. Most of the bodies had begun to decompose.

Seven bodies had have not yet been claimed by relatives, the news agency quoted Robinson Panjaitan, head of Sorong Hospital, as saying on Saturday.

The local port authority was still investigating the cause of the accident, but suspected it was due to overloading of the boat with both passengers and cargo.

Among major shipping accidents in Indonesia was the sinking of the Gurita ferry on January 19, 1996, in the Balohan waters near Indonesia's northernmost island of Weh, Sabang, which killed 338 passengers.

Only 55 bodies were found. Thirty-nine passengers survived the disaster.

Overloading was found to be the cause of the accident; the ship was designed to carry a maximum of 73 tons of cargo, 210 passengers and 17 crew.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News")

Website: http://www.irja.org/

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