January 31, 2006

Indonesia ferry sinks in heavy seas, 105 on board

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian ferry carrying 105 people
sank in heavy seas in the country's east overnight and naval
vessels were searching for survivors, port officials said on

A naval vessel had so far rescued 12 people, El Shinta
radio said. There were 82 passengers and 23 crew on board the
doomed vessel, officials said.

The ferry was traveling from Kupang on Indonesia's side of
Timor island to nearby Rote island when officials lost contact
with it on Tuesday night, officials said.

"We can confirm that the ferry has sunk. The weather is
pretty friendly right now and rescue crews are doing their
job," one Kupang port official, Marthen Manu, told Reuters by

Another port official, Syamsir Siahaan, told El Shinta
helicopters were expected to join the search.

The vessel, which was also carrying a number of cars and
trucks, went missing in heavy seas, Siahaan said.

Kupang lies 1,900 km (1,200 miles) east of Jakarta.

Ferries are the most common means of transport for people
wishing to travel around the 17,000 islands of the world's
largest archipelagic nation, where sea connections are much
cheaper and more available than air routes.

But safety standards are not strictly enforced and many
ferries are overcrowded. A number sink each year, especially in
the eastern and less developed parts of the country.

The passenger capacity of the latest ferry to sink was