Agence France-Presse

The death toll from a ferry accident in central Indonesia has climbed to 16 and two people are still missing, an official said Thursday.

Divers scouring the wreckage at a depth of 12 metres (39 feet) recovered the bodies of two young girls, aged seven and 12, in the boat’s engine room Thursday morning, local disaster agency Ade Hamsidari said.

One person died in hospital Thursday afternoon and 55 have been rescued.

Some 73 passengers and crew were aboard the traditional wooden boat — known locally as a jolloro — when it hit rough seas and sank as it travelled from Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, to the tiny resort island of Barrang Lompo.

Police say the boat was overloaded and have launched an investigation into the disaster, while rescuers will continue looking for victims for several more days.

The passengers were thought to be Barrang Lompo natives who work in Makassar and were heading home to spend the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr with their families.

Almost 32 million Indonesians are on the move this week in the annual Eid exodus, according to official figures.

The sinking is the latest in a string of deadly maritime accidents in the vast Indonesian archipelago, which relies heavily on boats to ferry people around its 17,000 islands but has a patchy safety record.

On New Year’s Day, nine people died after a passenger boat capsized when travelling from the city of Tarakan to Tanjung Selor on Borneo island.

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