Asia

As many as 192 passengers could be missing after a ferry sank into the depths of a volcanic lake in Indonesia, the search-and-rescue agency said Wednesday, tripling initial government estimates.

But the agency s head cautioned that it was still unclear how many people were aboard the vessel when it capsized Monday in Lake Toba, a popular tourist destination on Sumatra island.

The traditional wooden boat may have been operating illegally with no manifest or passenger tickets, sparking confusion and a string of changing official passenger estimates.

Indonesia s disaster agency originally said some 80 people along with dozens of motorcycles were on the overloaded, 43-passenger capacity vessel when it overturned and sank.

So far, four bodies have been found and another 18 people rescued, according to the agency.

By Wednesday, the official number of missing had jumped several times to 192 passengers.

Authorities based the figures on reports from families whose missing relatives may have been on the doomed vessel, but their accounts are difficult to verify.

If confirmed, it would be one of Indonesia s deadliest maritime disasters.

“Many people got on the boat without a ticket so it s unclear how many were on board,” Muhammad Syaugi, the head of the search and rescue agency, told AFP.

Later at a press conference, Syaugi added: “There are many people who have reported their relatives missing, but whether they were on the boat or not we don t know.”

The search has now turned to recovering bodies — including those that may still be trapped inside the sunken boat.

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