Over 200 missing as ferry sinks in Indonesia (Lead)

January 11th, 2009 - 11:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Jan 11 (DPA) A ferry with some 250 people on board sank in rough waters off the Indonesian province of West Sulawesi early Sunday, leaving more than 200 missing, officials said.Eighteen people were rescued from the sea, including a crew member, who told officials that the ship was engulfed by huge waves before it sank, said Ilham Rachman, an official at the post in West Sulawesi port town of Majene.

“The crew member said the weather was very bad and the seas were rough,” Ilham said.

“We haven’t been able to get much information from them because they are still very weak and traumatized,” he said about the survivors.

A search was underway involving Navy personnel and fisherman had been alerted to help with the rescue effort, he said.

The Teratai Prima ferry left the Sulawesi island harbour Pare-pare harbour Saturday evening en route to Samarinda in the eastern Kalimantan province on the Indonesian portion of Borneo Island, said Suhardi, an official at the Search and Rescue (SAR) agency in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi.

Relatives of the passengers gathered at the Samarinda port for news about their loved ones, Metro TV reported.

Search and rescue officials said three of the survivors were picked up by local fishermen in the rough seas.

Port authorities in Pare-pare confirmed that the ill-fated ferry was carrying about 250 people and a crew of 17 when it left.

It was the latest sea disasters in Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands that depends on ocean transport.

Indonesian passenger ferries and ships generally have poor safety records and also frequently take on more than the permitted number of passengers and cargo.

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