BEIRUT: Eighteen Lebanese who survived the drowning of a boat off the Indonesian coast last month headed to Jakarta Saturday to board a plane back home as further details on the tragic incident at sea emerged.
“They left the hotel in Sukabumi where they were kept by immigration authorities and headed in a bus to the airport in Jakarta,” Joanna Qazzi, the Lebanese Charges d’Affaires in Jakarta told The Daily Star.
She said that an employee from the Lebanese Embassy in Indonesia was accompanying them on the bus.
“There is another employee waiting for them at the airport to help them check-in and an official delegation will accompany them back home,” Qazzi said.
The diplomat explained that the survivors would take an Emirates Airline flight to Beirut via Dubai. They are expected to land in Beirut Sunday at 10.30 a.m.
A boat carrying dozens of immigrants, mostly Lebanese, seeking to illegally enter Australia sank off the coast of Indonesia on Sept. 27. Most of Lebanese passengers hailed from north Lebanon.
Further details on the tragic incident at sea emerged Saturday.
Addressing a news conference in Indonesia, forensic expert Fouad Ayoub, a member of Lebanese delegation tasked with following up on the case on behalf of the Lebanese government, said that the ill-fated boat had 72 passengers aboard in addition to the helmsman and his aide.
“As for the actual number of survivors, it is certain that 28 have survived, including 18 Lebanese,” he said. “The total number of the missing is 44 and the bodies pulled [from the ocean] are 43,” said Ayoub.
Ayoub said information emerged Friday evening indicating an additional body was recovered.
He said that if the recovered body turned out to belong to one of the passengers, then the number of missing would match that of the bodies recovered.
Ayoub said that coroners’ tests were conducted on the bodies between Oct. 1 and Oct. 4.
“It turned out that 22 of the bodies are for males, including 18 adults and four children, while 21 of the bodies are for females, 14 adults and seven children,” Ayoub explained.
Ayoub said Indonesian authorities vowed to conduct DNA tests on the recovered bodies starting Monday.
The delegation, headed by caretaker Minister of State Ahmad Karami, headed to Indonesia Wednesday.
Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman expressed relief on the return of the survivors.
“[Sleiman] hoped Indonesian authorities will accelerate measures to repatriate the bodies [of victims] and search for the missing to return them to their families.”