A ferry with some 250 people on board sank in rough waters off the western Indonesian province of West Sulawesi early yesterday, leaving more than 200 missing and feared drowned, officials and media reports said.
Indonesian Transport Minister Jusman Syafi’i Djamal said that 150 people had been taken off the ferry, but added he did not know if they were dead or alive.
He said the ferry had 250 passengers and cargo on board.
A transport agency spokesman earlier said 18 people were known to have survived, but did not give details.
The ferry left Pare-pare on the island of Sulawesi on Saturday and was heading for Samarinda, in East Kalimantan, but got into difficulties and sank at around 4am on Sunday morning, Taufik Bulu, head of maritime safety at Pare-pare port administration, said.
He said the ferry was carrying 250 passengers and 17 crew.
Relatives of dozens of the victims gathered at Samarinda, urging the ferry company to reveal the names of the survivors.
Indonesia relies heavily on ferry services to connect the main islands in the archipelago but accidents are common, largely because of years of under-investment in the country’s infrastructure and a tendency to overload ferries.
Officials said a rescue was under way.
“Our people there are trying to save people now,” said Bambang Ervan, spokesman for the Transport Ministry.