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Storm sinks Indonesian ferry with 250 passengers

world Updated: Jan 11, 2009 17:50 IST

AP
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An Indonesian passenger ferry sank in a storm Sunday with around 250 passengers and 17 crew onboard after being battered by seven-foot (two-meter) waves, officials said. Eighteen survivors were rescued by fishing boats, but the fate of the others remained unclear, said Taufik, a port official who uses one name, as is common in Indonesia.

Transport Minister Jusman Syafi'i Djamal said the captain reported that 150 people had jumped off the boat before it sank, but he did not know what happened to them.

"We have prepared a search and rescue operation, but now there are high waves hampering the process," Djamal said. The 700-ton Teratai Prima sank en route from the western port of Parepare on the island of Sulawesi to Samarinda, East Kalimantan, on the Indonesian half of Borneo.

It went down 30 miles (50 kilometers) off western Sulawesi after the ship radioed that it was "hit by a storm," said Nurwahida, a port official.

Eighteen passengers and crew were saved by fishermen who found them drifting on three life rafts, Taufik said, citing a survivor's account.

The closest town to the accident site is Majene, about 850 miles (1,370 kilometers) northeast of capital, Jakarta. Boats are a major form of transportation in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and a population of 235 million. Poor enforcement of safety regulations and overcrowding causes accidents that claim hundreds of lives each year.