23 dead, 17 missing after Indonesian ferry catches fire

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — At least 23 people were killed and 17 others were missing after a ferry caught fire Sunday off the coast of Indonesia’s capital, officials said.

The vessel was carrying more than 230 people from Jakarta’s port of Muara Angke to Tidung, a resort island in the Kepulauan Seribu chain, when it caught fire, officials said. Most of the passengers were Indonesians celebrating the New Year’s holiday, according to local media reports.

Seply Madreta, an official from the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the fire gutted around half the vessel. He said that about 22 injured victims were rushed to hospitals, and that 23 bodies had been recovered.

Twenty bodies that were found inside the vessel were burned beyond recognition and were transferred to a police hospital for identification, said Col. Umar Shahab of the Jakarta police’s health department.

A search involving around 10 ships was underway to find those who were missing, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

Witnesses told MetroTV that the fire broke out about 15 minutes after the ferry left Muara Angke.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. Some passengers told local media that they first saw smoke coming from the ferry’s engine.

TV footage showed people in the water with the ferry in flames in the background. A woman in the water can be heard screaming “Ya Allah! Ya Allah!” or “Oh God! Oh God!”

Another woman told the TV station that she and other passengers were rescued by a small boat.

Despite officials saying that more than 230 people were aboard the ferry, the manifest showed that only 100 were registered as passengers, along with six crewmen, said Denny Wahyu Haryanto, head of the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency. He said the vessel’s captain was under police investigation over the incident.

Ferry accidents are common in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic nation, with more than 17,000 islands. Many accidents are blamed on lax regulation of boat services.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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