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Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 10:25 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Hundreds missing in ferry disaster

The Harta Rimba sank in the waters between Tambelan and Pengiki

Nearly 300 people are missing, feared drowned, after a ferry sank off the coast of Indonesia.

The BBC's South East Asia Correspondent, David Willis: "Many of those on board were logging workers"
The Harta Rimba, which had at least 300 people on board went down at the weekend in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. But the disaster came to light only after a passing cargo ship picked up 19 survivors who had been floating at sea for two days.

Rescuers say the chances of finding any more people alive after several days in shark-infested waters, are slim. At least one body has been found.

The ferry sank 70 miles west of Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on the huge island of Borneo.

The 147-ton vessel was carrying mainly workers for a logging company from Pontianak to the Sumatran port of Pakanbaru.

A Pontianak port official said the captain was among those rescued on Monday evening.

Drifting without power

He said the Harta Rimba had apparently been drifting, with its engines out of action, when it was hit by a huge wave late on Saturday night.

But one of the survivors told reporters the seas were calm when the ship foundered.

The 23-year-old labourer said: "The weather was fine... All I know is that that there was a leak in the ship and it started sinking just around midnight on Saturday.

"I just jumped into the sea like everybody else. Luckily I found a life vest."

The area where the ship went down - which is right on the Equator - is used by hundreds of ships every day on their way from Japan and China to Europe and the Middle East.

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