Survivors recall sinking horror

2011-12-20 17:37
Asylum seekers who survived a wreck are escorted by plain-clothed police officers upon their return from hospital at a temporary shelter in Trenggalek, Indonesia. (AP)

Asylum seekers who survived a wreck are escorted by plain-clothed police officers upon their return from hospital at a temporary shelter in Trenggalek, Indonesia. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Lumajang - From their hospital beds, shocked migrants on Tuesday recounted the horror of clinging to wreckage for three days in violent seas after their overloaded boat sank off Indonesia en route to Australia.

Seventeen-year-old Afghan student Samin Gul Afghani broke down in tears as he described seeing his uncle and two younger brothers sink exhausted under the waves.

Afghani, one of 13 survivors found Monday 100km from Saturday's capsize location, recalled seeing dozens of fellow migrants drowning as they waited in vain to be rescued.

"Many people did not know how to swim and were sitting on a large plank of wood from the wreckage. When the waves hit one side, we shifted to the other," said Afghani.

"One by one, they were swept away by the waves and drowned. Many were old people and young children."


His uncle and two brothers were non-swimmers, Afghani said.

"They died in front of my eyes. I could do nothing to save them," he said, sobbing.

Afghani was one of a handful of survivors receiving medical treatment at a hospital in Lumajang city in Indonesia's East Java province. They said that most of the roughly 250 migrants on the doomed boat were Afghans or Iranians.

"People-smugglers first brought me to Indonesia. From here, I got on the boat at around 03:00 on Saturday," said 25-year-old Syed Ghasem, another Afghan.

"I was on one of four buses loaded with people like me who were trying to get to Australia," he said. "Six hours into the [sea] journey we were in a very, very violent storm, and the next thing I knew the boat had capsized."

Ghasem said that about 50 survivors managed to climb onto the section of wood, but many were lost when it broke apart.

"Thirteen of us managed to hang on, and we were adrift for three days and two nights before being picked up by a ferry," Ghasem said.


So far, 47 survivors have been rescued after the fibreglass vessel, which had a capacity of only 100, sank 40 nautical miles off eastern Java.

Thirty-four people were plucked from shark-infested waters by fishermen on Saturday six hours after the sinking and were being formally identified by the International Organization for Migration.

Officials said they were trying to establish whether two Indonesians found on Monday near eastern Java's Malang city were crew. One of the Indonesians said he was a fisherman.

Search operations resumed on Tuesday despite only slim chances of finding anyone else alive, said East Java provincial Disaster Management Agency chief Siswanto.

Survivors said they were heading to Australia's Christmas Island, a favoured destination for people-smugglers lying closer to Indonesia than Australia, where nearly 50 would-be migrants are believed to have died in wild seas during a shipwreck in December 2010.

The latest incident is considered the "largest loss of life" yet from a sinking of one of the many boats packed with Asian and Middle Eastern migrants who undertake the perilous sea voyage from Indonesia to Australia.

Crew and migrants had fought over 25 life vests on the doomed boat, officials and survivors said.


"There was nothing for us. We didn't eat, we didn't drink. We were so thirsty. We thought we were going to die," Afghani said. "One Iranian tried to swim to shore and get help. He never came back."

Afghani said he saw rescuers on two boats on Sunday but was disappointed when they turned back.

"They couldn't get to us because the waters were very disturbed, very big waves," he said.

Australia's Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare on Monday said Indonesia had requested help from Australian police to investigate people-smugglers, who he said had showed a "callous disregard for human life".

Australian police are already assisting in investigations, Indonesian police chief of general crimes Ari Dono Sukmanto said.

"We are chasing people-smuggling suspects. Migrants have told us that several people are involved in this case. They are part of a syndicate involving Indonesian and foreign people-smugglers," said Sukmanto.

The Australian newspaper reported on Monday that a principal suspect in sending the latest boat was an associate of the jailed kingpin Sayed Abbas, whose extradition Australia seeking from Indonesia.

Read more on:    indonesia

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R5727.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.