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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 December 2006, 14:28 GMT
Indonesia ferry survivors found
Survivors of a ferry accident drift in the sea off Rembang, Indonesia
Naval boats cannot reach survivors trapped in rough seas
Indonesian rescue teams searching for those missing after a ferry sinking off Java say they have found scores of survivors in lifeboats.

Naval officers flying over the area say they have seen at least 10 lifeboats with survivors on board but that stormy weather has prevented their rescue.

Of some 600 people on board the ship, which capsized in severe weather on Saturday, 151 have been rescued so far.

However, local fisherman have also recovered the bodies of 66 people.

The vessel, Senopati Nusantara, was carrying 628 people including 57 crew when it sank, according to Indonesia's Transport Minister Hatta Rajasa.

I was going upstairs to try to help my daughter, but the ship suddenly broke up and I was thrown out - I lost her
Cholid, a survivor
The boat is thought to have sunk about 40 km (24 miles) off Mandalika island, about 300 km (190 miles) north-east of the capital, Jakarta. It was travelling from the port of Kumai, Borneo, to Semarang in Java.

The BBC's Lucy Williamson in Indonesia says that the boats spotted from the air are drifting eastwards along the coast of Java, and have travelled some 70 nautical miles from the wreckage.

Rescue boats have been sent to meet them, our correspondent says, but weather conditions which had improved earlier in the morning have now begun to worsen and officials are worried it may hamper the rescue effort.

Helicopters have been dropping food and water to those clinging to the lifeboats until they can be rescued from the rough seas.

Passengers' panic

Survivors say many lifeboats simply tore in half, leaving victims drifting.

People have been known to survive for days in Indonesia's tropical waters.

"We will continue the search operation, normally until seven days, but it can be extended until we are sure that we have made our utmost efforts," Mr Rajasa said of the search and rescue effort, which is being spearheaded by four naval ships and at least two aircraft.

He said the vessel, built in Japan in 1990, was seaworthy and had a capacity of more than 850 passengers.

Indonesia ferry survivors
Some survivors have been picked up by local fishermen
Survivors have described panic as the Senopati began to sink and passengers scrambled to climb aboard lifeboats, many of which broke apart leaving people drifting in the water.

One survivor, who lost his two children, told Reuters news agency that the ship had started to roll over after struggling in high seas and heavy rains.

"Suddenly the lights went off and it became dark. The ship's crew tossed lifejackets... some could not get any but I got one," said 53-year-old Waluyo.

"I tried to get into a rubber boat but many people also did the same thing, so the rubber boat was torn... Finally I grabbed the edge of another rubber boat."

Another survivor, who gave his name as Cholid, said there were not enough life jackets and that passengers had fought over them as the boat capsized.

"I was going upstairs to try to help my daughter, but the ship suddenly broke up and I was thrown out. I lost her," he told AP news agency.

Ships and ferries are a cheap and popular means of transport between the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia.

Correspondents say safety standards are not always enforced and vessels frequently carry more passengers than they are meant to.

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