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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sg Kakus Tatau Boat Tragedy

Kuching, Sarawak
Tuesday, 19th October 2010


Four express boat passengers died while at least 20 were still missing after the boat which ferried around 30 people sank at Sungai Kakus, in Ulu Tatau.
The incident occurred around 2.30pm when the boat was negotiating a bend in the river, near Kelebu timber camp, around 50 kilometres from here.


The boat was said to have rammed onto a steel cable that a tug boat uses to tow a barge. Only seven passengers including the skipper and a crew member managed to save themselves, said Tatau District Police Chief DSP Zaizodin Wan Jaafar.
Three adult bodies were found around 8pm while the body of a five-month old toddler was found floating on the river a few minutes later, he added.
As at 9pm yesterday, the fate of the missing persons was still not known.
The search and rescue team believed the river current might have swept them somewhere else. The current was also swift, said Zaizodin. Zaizodin said the express boat departed Tatau around 1.30pm and was heading towards Hulu Kakus.
A passenger who survived the ordeal Silo Gerenang, 58, said the express boat was stuck on the steel cable.
“The skipper failed to avoid ramming the steel cable which then got tangled up with our boat. Our boat then sank. I was fortunate because I was sitting near the window and managed to escape,” he said.
Silo, who resides at the Police barrack at Nanga Rungan, Kakus regretted that he could not save other passengers because the incident happened too fast.
Ebie Biju, 35, who was sitting at the front part of the boat, believed that the accident could have been avoided.
Hailing from Rumah Jimbai Kakus, he had been shopping at Tatau Town and thanked God for being alive.
“Luckily my other family members were not with me in the boat,” he said.
“I heard other passengers screaming in panic. In a matter of moments, the boat sank,” he recalled.
The crew member, who survived, Sim Chi Liang said he was full of regret because he could not save the life of passengers or those who drifted away.






“I immediately jumped out through the window. I could not do anything,” he said. Apart from the police and civil defence and rescue team, several camp workers were also helping in the search and rescue of passengers.
“Camp workers also rushed to the scene to assist in the search and rescue operation,” said timber manager Kiu Siong Hock.
The work to fully retrieve the express boat started around 6pm. A crane and tug boat were used to pull the boat to the surface.
Although the work to salvage the boat ended around 8.30pm the search and rescue operation will continue today.
When met at Bintulu Hospital, Assistant Minister of Development and Communication DatuK Lee Kim Shin said Sarawak Rivers Board would probe the incident thoroughly.
“No stone will be unturned,” he said.
Lee, also Senadin assemblyman, believed the search and rescue team would do its best to search for the missing persons.

Survivor Recalls On Tragedy


Sylvia, 21, looked like a spent force, but otherwise healthy when met at the hospital bed late yesterday.

She said she was probably in the water for 10 minutes, struggling to keep herself afloat, before some strong hands pulled her out of the water.

Recounting her experience, Sylvia said she travelled alone from Kakus to Tatau for some grocery.
“After having bought all I needed to buy, I took the 1.30pm boat along with about 30 others who included some children.
“I thought nothing of the worst. It was like any other journey I had made along the river.
“In fact, when the accident happened, it was just too fast. All I knew was the boat suddenly tilted over.
“And then there was water and darkness. I fought to keep afloat but the water was sucking me in.
“I went under several times. It was probably 10 minutes and I was frantically trying to get hold of something. My eyes were open but I couldn’t remember seeing anything.
“Then as if by miracle strong hands were pulling me out of the water. I wonder if I had had the strength to keep myself afloat if the rescuers had come a little later.”
Sylvia soon found out that the rescuers were timber camp workers.
Once on dry ground, the first thing a tearful Sylvia spoke of wanting to see her mother.
Jackson Ujik, meanwhile, said he was with his wife and daughter, sitting at the front portion of the boat when he saw the boat going out of control.
“The boat just swayed to one side and the next thing was it simply turned over,” he said, adding that just as it was flipping over he grabbed at the hands of his wife and one-year-old daughter and jumped.
He said that was all he could remember because the next few minutes all he could think of was not to let go the two hands he was holding.
“Then I saw the boat (rescuers’ tugboat) and used all the strength I could muster to reach it. Thank God we’re alive,” Jackson said.

Taken From Borneo Post Online

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