Indonesian passenger ferry sinks with 242 aboard

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The Independent Online

A passenger ferry sank in rough waters off the Indonesian island of Sumatra today killing at least 25 people on board.

Rescuers saved more than 240 people aboard the ferry but officials are unsure of how many more people may be missing.

A second ferry was still stranded in nearby waters after running aground, but all its passengers were said to be safe.

Rescue teams found 25 bodies, including those of two children, according to officials.

A total of 243 survivors from the Dumai Express 10 were rescued, they said.

It was unclear how many people were aboard the ferry. Police and navy officials said the ferry manifest listed 228 people, including 15 children, and 14 crew members, but the number of people accounted for has already surpassed those numbers.

The ship had a capacity of 273, but it is not uncommon for ferries to be overloaded.

Authorities called off search and rescue operations in the rough sea as darkness fell, said Yasin Kosasih, a local police chief co-ordinating the rescue mission.

"Considering the weather condition and the dark, we ... will resume the search tomorrow morning," Kosasih said.

High waves had made the rescue operation difficult, which at its peak had at least nine ships and several fishing boats searching the choppy sea. Local television news showed two survivors, wearing life jackets, floating on the water.

The ferry left on an inter-island voyage this morning and sank in stormy weather 90 minutes into the trip from Batam to Dumai in Riau, a province off Sumatra island in western Indonesia. The area is about 600 miles north-west of Jakarta.

The ship sank about 30 minutes after huge waves hit its bow and water started seeping in, according to a report from the ship's captain, said Lt. Col. Edwin, the local navy chief.

Passing boats picked up dozens of those rescued and took them to nearby islands for medical treatment.

In a separate accident today, the Dumai Express 15 with 278 people on board ran aground on its way from Batam to Moro island in Sumatra. No one was hurt.