April 18, 2006

Ferry with 100 people sinks in east Indonesia

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian ferry carrying around 100
people has sunk in the eastern part of the country, but no
deaths have been confirmed so far, rescue officials said on

The Indonesian navy has dispatched one ship and an airplane
to search for the boat which sank late on Monday near Rote
Island, 1,900 km (1,180 miles) east of the capital Jakarta.

"We believe more or less 100 people were on board ... But
we don't know the real capacity of the ship nor the cause of
the incident," Hidayat Surati from Indonesia's national rescue
agency in Jakarta told Reuters.

Rescuers in Kupang, the closest city to the accident area,
said a search was underway.

"We have rescued 19 people so far and that number should
climb. We are still continuing rescue efforts with the navy and
local residents," said Herry Sasongko, head of the national
rescue agency's branch in Kupang on Timor island.

The Elshinta news radio, however, quoted an official as
saying that the ferry had beached on an islet off the larger
island of Rote and more than 50 passengers had been rescued.

The official said only about 60 people were on the ferry.

It is often difficult to determine how many passengers are
on Indonesian ferries involved in accidents, since they
frequently carry individuals who have not paid for their
tickets or otherwise have not been listed on manifests.

A ferry sank in heavy seas in the same area less than three
months ago, killing at least 10 people. More than 100 were

Ferries are a popular means of transport between the more
than 17,000 islands of Indonesia, where sea connections are
cheaper and more available than air routes.

But safety standards are not strictly enforced and many
ferries are overcrowded.