June 22, 2006

Indonesia searches for 39 people after ferry sinks

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian rescue teams scoured the
high seas off Sumatra island on Friday for 39 people after a
ferry sank in a storm, a senior navy official said.

The navy had rescued 94 people from the Sinar Mulia Indah
ferry which ran into bad weather and high waves early on
Thursday, Lieutenant-Colonel Jaka Santoso, chief of the Sibolga
naval base, told Reuters. No deaths have been reported so far.

"The difficulty we have been facing since yesterday is the
high waves. Because of the high waves, survivors are hard to
spot," Santoso said.

He said search teams had not found anybody in the ferry
itself, which they had located some 50 meters deep into the

There were no U.S. citizens on the ferry, he said, a day
after other officials said three Americans were on the boat's

The ferry, which regularly takes people to Nias island,
popular with surfers, sprang a leak before it hit huge waves
and bad weather made things worse, he said.

Ferries are a popular means of transport between the 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.