Sat, Feb 24, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Navy scours bay for Jakarta ferry accident victims

AFP , JAKARTA

The Indonesian navy scoured the Bay of Jakarta yesterday for at least 17 people still missing after a blaze on a ferry that killed 16 passengers.

More than 200 passengers and crew leapt into the water after the blaze raged out of control early on Thursday as the vessel was sailing out of the Indonesian capital's port.

WRONG NUMBERS

"The number of passengers is more than what was declared in the manifest, so we are still checking the exact numbers of people still missing," national police spokesman Bambang Kuncoko said.

The boat manifest recorded 227 passengers but the ferry was carrying more than 300 people when the fire broke out.

He said 281 people had been rescued so far.

"We are still searching for more survivors," he said.

The Antara news agency and Indonesian television reported that five navy ships were keeping up the search after the latest in a series of Indonesian transport accidents, which have killed more than 450 people in two months.

POLICE INVESTIGATION

The ferry's skipper and four crew members are now under police investigation.

Transport Minister Hatta Rajasa was quoted by Antara saying that the fire appeared to have been sparked by one of the trucks on the ferry's car deck.

Lax enforcement of safety regulations, poor maintenance and a lack of investment in transport infrastructure have been blamed for the air, sea and rail accidents, which have become a regular occurrence.

Ferries are a crucial link between the archipelago nation's 17,000 islands and frequently carry more people than officially acknowledged.

Thursday's blaze scorched the superstructure and burnt most of the paint off the Levina I. Dozens of survivors suffered burns.

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