Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Sunday, 22 November 2009

Hundreds rescued after Indonesia ferry sinks


Local TV aired footage of rescue efforts

More than 240 people have been rescued from the sea after a heavily-loaded ferry sank off the coast of Indonesia.

But at least 29 people died and 17 others are missing after the accident, blamed on bad weather and high waves, officials said.

The numbers suggest the ferry was carrying more than its capacity of 273 people, but overloading is common.

Search efforts have now stopped for the night but officials say they will resume in the morning.


Indonesia's sea transport director-general, Sunaryo, said rescue efforts had been hampered by bad weather.


"The waves are as high as six metres (20ft), it's difficult for small ships to reach the location," he told a news conference in Jakarta.

The Dumai Express 10 was travelling from Batam island to Dumai in Riau, Sumatra, when it sank.

Officials said it rolled over before capsizing about 90 minutes into its voyage.

According to its manifest, about 240 people were on board the ferry when it sailed, but Indonesian health official Rustam Pakaya later told AFP news agency the actual number was 291.

Rescue efforts were aided by the fact that the ferry went down in the busy Malacca Straits between Indonesia and Malaysia.

One man, who gave his name as Riki, said he was rescued by fishermen.

"It was too fast... and the ship crew did not tell us about the situation at all," he told Indonesia's Antara news agency.

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"We only managed to get out after I broke the glass window on the right side. That was the only way because there were many people jostling for the doors."

Another survivor called Kristin described a scene of panic.

"I saw children running here and there on the ferry as they tried to escape but there weren't enough life jackets," she told TVOne.

A navy spokesman said it was not clear whether anyone was still inside the ferry, which was now completely submerged.

Safety woes

Another ferry, the Dumai Express 15, was reported to have run aground in bad weather as it travelled between Batam and Moro islands.

All 278 passengers and crew on board were said to be safe.

Ferry accidents linked to over-crowding and poor vessel maintenance kill hundreds of passengers in Indonesia each year.

The country's large population is spread out over 17,000 islands and relies on ships and ferries to travel around.

In the last three years, at least 800 people have been killed in ferry accidents in Indonesia.

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