June 29, 2018 / 5:53 AM / 10 months ago

Underwater drone finds bodies, motorcycles from sunken Indonesia ferry

A search and rescue team heads out to look for passengers from the KM Sinar Bangun ferry which sank yesterday in Lake Toba, Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta/Files

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Search teams using an underwater drone have found human remains and motorcycles believed to be from an Indonesian ferry that sank last week in one of the world’s deepest volcanic lakes.

The KM Sinar Bangun, a 17-metre long wooden ferry, capsized during a storm and sank in Lake Toba, which is around 450 m (1,500 feet) deep. Three passengers have been confirmed dead and nearly 200 are missing.

Many passengers are believed to have been trapped inside the overloaded ferry, but the depth of the lake on the island of Sumatra and diving conditions have complicated efforts to recover their remains.

Video footage taken on Thursday by a remotely-operated underwater vehicle (ROV) showed human remains, motorcycles and ropes from the ferry at a depth of 450 metres, the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) said.

“After successfully finding the objects, the next job is to (decide) how to lift and evacuate the bodies,” BASARNAS chief Muhammad Syaugi was quoted as saying on the agency’s website.

Eighteen people, including the captain, survived the sinking of the ferry thought to have been carrying nearly five times the number of passengers it was designed for and dozens of motorcycles.

Indonesian police questioned the captain last week and named four people as suspects in a criminal probe into one of Indonesia’s deadliest ferry disasters in nearly a decade.

Spread over 1,145 sq km (450 sq miles), the tourist attraction of Lake Toba fills the caldera of a giant ancient volcano that erupted about 75,000 years ago in one of history’s biggest eruptions.

Weather conditions can quickly change on the picturesque lake, where a string of accidents has included a 1997 sinking that killed about 80 people.

Reporting by Tabita Diela; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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