Indonesian ferry disaster: 116 rescued | india | Hindustan Times
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Indonesian ferry disaster: 116 rescued

More survivors were saved as rescuers fought bad weather on Sunday to search for an estimated 480 people still missing.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2006 15:59 IST

More survivors were saved as rescuers fought bad weather on Sunday to search for an estimated 480 people still missing and feared drowned after a passenger ferry sank in rough seas off Indonesia's Java island.

By mid-afternoon on Sunday, a total of 116 survivors had been rescued from the Java seas, said Waluyo, a port official in Central Java capital of Semarang.

The ferry, NV Senopati Nusantara, sank in a storm late on Friday with more than 570 people on board. The ship was en route from Kalimantan province on the Indonesian part of Borneo to Semarang, capital of Central Java.

Indonesian authorities said the captain had radioed to port authorities that the ship was in trouble during a storm that had severely damaged the ferry.

"Our team resumed the search this morning," said Edy, an official at Semarang's provincial search and rescue agency, adding that they faced waves as high as four metres.

Waluyo, an official at Semarang's port, said he received reports from rescue workers that two Indonesian Navy vessels had picked up 24 people, while 11 other survivors were picked by a Vietnamese-flag ship passing in the area.

A number of survivors were rescued by fishing boats after floating for more than 24 hours.

"I was floating for around one day and a night before I was rescued by fishermen this morning," Syaifullah, one of those 18 survivors, told a private radio.

Passengers fought over life jackets as the boat capsized, while others survived the rough seas by clinging to wooden planks, survivors said.

Six naval ships, several other vessels and at least two aircraft and a helicopter have been involved in the search for at least 468 people missing and feared drowned after more than 48 hours floating on rough seas, Waluyo said.

The ferry was carrying 545 passengers and 20 crewmembers.

"Weather today is still not much different from yesterday. Poor visibility and stormy seas hampered rescue efforts," said Waluyo.

Indonesian authorities initially put the number of people on board the ferry ranging from 550 to 800 for the scheduled 19-hour voyage from the central Kalimantan port of Kumai to Semarang harbour.

The ship, built in Japan in 1990, had a capacity of 850 passengers.

"We will deploy all ships including navy vessels and marine police boats as well as ships belonging to the private and state-owned companies for the search-and-rescue operation," Communication Minister Hatta Radjasa told reporters.

According to Radjasa, the ferry was seaworthy and categorised as still new, and he blamed bad weather as the cause of the accident.

In July 2003, a ferry packed with around 500 people fleeing sectarian violence in the eastern Indonesian province of Maluku sank in bad weather in the Maluku Sea, leaving hundreds dead or missing.

Indonesia is a vast archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands, and sea links are a main transportation link in the country. Passenger ferries and ships have poor safety records. There have been many shipwrecks in Indonesian waters.