“With great effort, the KM Sirimau, which had been stranded for two days, was cleared at 12:00 p.m. (0400 GMT) and is currently heading for the nearest port of Lewoleba”, in the south of the archipelago, indicated the head of the local navy base Dwi Yoga told AFP.

The KM Sirimau remained with 784 passengers and 55 crew members on board after it ran aground during a 184 km crossing in the province of the Lesser Sunda Islands (in Indonesian Nusa Tenggara East).

The emergency services did not immediately evacuate the passengers but first multiplied their efforts to free the ferry.

A tug sent by the public shipping company PT Pelni arrived in the area on Thursday which was able to unblock the boat after waiting for high tide.

The ferry headed to a port on the island of Lewoleba for security checks before resuming its journey to Maumere on the island of Flores.

“Thank God the boat is now free and we are heading back to Lewoleba. We are almost there,” passenger Itha Tating told AFP by phone.

Accidents at sea are frequent in Indonesia, an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, whose population relies on ferries and other boats for travel despite insufficient safety standards.

In 2018, some 160 people perished when a ferry sank in one of the world’s deepest lakes on the island of Sumatra.

More than 300 people drowned in the sinking of a ferry between Sulawesi and Borneo in 2009.