JAKARTA, Indonesia – A crowded boat capsized off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island early Monday, killing at least 15 people and leaving 19 others missing, rescuers said.
The small wooden boat capsized shortly after midnight, said Muhammad Arafah, a local search and rescue official. He said that they have been bringing people to a village in Buton Central, a state, or government, in the southeast of Sulawesi.
Rescuers were searching Monday for 19 people still missing in the rough sea, Arafah said. He said 6 people have been rescued and 15 bodies have been found.
Thousands of people in Buton Central had gone to their villages to celebrate the local festival on Sunday, many of them traveling in fishing or passenger boats.
Television reports show people on fishing boats carrying bodies in the dark of night, with grieving relatives waiting for information at the port and at the nearest hospital.
Boats are a common form of transportation in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands. Because safety standards are often low and people are overcrowded, accidents are common.
In 2018, a boat full of about 200 people sank in the sea off North Sumatra, killing 167 people.
In one of the worst disasters to happen in Indonesia, an overcrowded cruise ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people on board. Only 20 people survived.