January 31, 2006

Indonesia ferry sinks in heavy seas, scores rescued

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian naval vessel rescued
scores of survivors in the early hours of Wednesday after a
ferry carrying 105 people sank in heavy seas in the country's
east overnight, port officials said.

The navy ship had so far picked up 59 people, one port
official, Marthen Manu, told Reuters by telephone.

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

"The latest information I have is that 59 people have been
saved and are on board the navy vessel," Manu said.

There were 82 passengers and 23 crew on board the ferry,
officials said.

Manu earlier said the weather had improved from Tuesday
night, making the job easier for rescue crews.

Another port official, Syamsir Siahaan, told El Shinta
radio station that helicopters were expected to join the

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

Kupang lies 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 not
immediately known.