Indonesian relatives check the passengers board of a capsized ferry at a crisis center in Siwa, Wajo district in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province, on Dec. 20, 2015
Sagar Mata—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
By Rishi Iyengar
December 21, 2015

Close to 80 people remain missing following the disappearance of a ferry of the coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Saturday, with officials saying more than 24 hours into a search-and-rescue operation that there was a possibility the vessel had capsized.

The country’s Transport Ministry confirmed on Sunday that 39 people were rescued, leaving 76 of the ferry’s 118 passengers still unaccounted for, Agence France-Presse reported.

Three people, two of them children, were found dead, the ministry said.

The effort to find the ill-fated ship, named the Marina Baru, has been hampered by the same choppy seas that likely prompted it to send out a distress signal before going missing off Sulawesi island on Saturday afternoon. Rescue patrols from the police and navy have encountered waves around 16 ft. high.

Frans Barung, a spokesman for the police, told AFP that the vessel’s fiberglass body makes it difficult to sink. “The boat has not been found because the weather has not been good,” he said.

However, hopes have begun to dwindle as the hunt for survivors enters its second day.

“We are worried that more than 24 hours have passed,” Alamsyah, head of a local Disaster Mitigation Agency, told Reuters. “We are waiting for miracles, God’s miracles.”

Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com.

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