Bali Search and Rescue and the Indonesian Navy have conducted a life-saving mission on the waters surrounding Bali. In the mid-afternoon of Wednesday, 16th November, the ferry carrying 236 passengers, 35 crew members, and dozens of vehicles got into grave danger. The ship, named KMP Mutiara Timur 1, was traveling from Ketapang Port, Banyuwangi, East Java, to Lembar Harbor, West Nusa Tenggara.
The Head of Denpasar Search and Rescue, Gede Darmada, confirmed the events to reporters. He revealed that the boat caught fire at 3 pm on Wednesday, 16th November, close to the beaches in Karangasem Regency. Upon receiving the call, Karangasem Regency Search and Rescue Unit 6 were deployed, closely followed by a team of fifteen personnel from the Indonesian Navy and a group of local fisherman who also heard the mayday call.
Speaking late on Wednesday night, Darmada explained, “We evacuated some [passengers] to land, then some were put on board the KRI, a TNI AL [navy] warship, and we are still in the process of determining it because in the field one of our obstacles is to count and identify the people being evacuated.”
By Thursday morning, the fire was still blazing on the ship. It has not yet been established what caused the fire, though witnesses have told officials that they heard an explosion. All those on board the ship have been accounted for and are safely on dry land. However, none of the vehicles have been recovered from the ship.
Once everyone was safely off the ship, a tugboat was deployed to start attempts to extinguish the flames. Though, on Thursday afternoon, the blaze was still burning. Local news outlets have suggested that the ship will sink before rescue efforts to tow the vessel into port.
The currents are shifting, and the waves and ocean winds are increasing, making attempts to recover the boat increasingly tricky. The ship has now been pushed into Lombok waters from its original position on the Karangasem coast.
Coastal officials have a day that the priority now is to ensure that the burning wreckage does not impact the flow of ships on the transportation route. The ship risks being blown into the busy shipping lane from Padang Bai in Bali to Lumbar Harbour in Lombok.
Sadly, this is not the first time this year that a ferry has caught fire off the coast of Bali. The safety of boats and ferries in Indonesia has been scrutinized in recent years as several fatal incidents have occurred in waters surrounding the archipelago.
On 16th July 2022, a similar vessel to the KMP Mutiara Timur 1, named the Nusa Penida, caught fire in West Lombok. The fire was caused by sparks flying during maintenance on the ship. One crew member died from burn injuries in the blaze.
Earlier in the year, on Sunday, 6th June, Bali’s Search and Rescue team was called to launch an emergency boat evacuation after engine failure resulted in the boat running aground. The passenger and vehicle ferry departed Ketapang Port, Banyuwangi, East Java, at around 1.50 am.
As the ferry approached the island of Bali, the engines failed just 0.5 nautical miles from Gilimanuk Harbour. The Search and Rescue team successfully rescued all passengers and the entire crew without any reported injuries.
According to the logbook, the ship was carrying 160 passengers in addition to 13 crew members. The ferry was also carrying 21 cars, 12 pickup trucks, one bus, and six motorcycles. As soon as Jembrana Search and Rescue were alerted to the situation, they launched an eight-man rescue team. Passengers were helped onto a series of lifeboats supported by a larger Bali Police vessel that joined the rescue mission.
Passengers were given life jackets, and children were carried by Search and Rescue Officers to help keep them calm. Once everyone was safely back on land, a tug boat was deployed to tow the vessel into Gilimauk Harbour.
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