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Ferry with 100 people sinks in east Indonesia

Written by: Staff
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JAKARTA, Apr 18 (Reuters) An Indonesian ferry carrying around 100 people has sunk in the eastern part of the country, but no deaths have been confirmed so far, rescue officials said today.

The Indonesian navy has dispatched one ship and an airplane to search for the boat which sank late yesterday near Rote Island, 1,900 km east of the capital Jakarta.

''We believe more or less 100 people were on board ... But we don't know the real capacity of the ship nor the cause of the incident,'' Hidayat Surati from Indonesia's national rescue agency in Jakarta told Reuters.

Rescuers in Kupang, the closest city to the accident area, said a search was underway.

''We have rescued 19 people so far and that number should climb. We are still continuing rescue efforts with the navy and local residents,'' said Herry Sasongko, head of the national rescue agency's branch in Kupang on Timor island.

The Elshinta news radio, however, quoted an official as saying that the ferry had beached on an islet off the larger island of Rote and more than 50 passengers had been rescued.

The official said only about 60 people were on the ferry.

It is often difficult to determine how many passengers are on Indonesian ferries involved in accidents, since they frequently carry individuals who have not paid for their tickets or otherwise have not been listed on manifests.

A ferry sank in heavy seas in the same area less than three months ago, killing at least 10 people. More than 100 were rescued.

Ferries are a popular means of transport between the more than 17,000 islands of Indonesia, where sea connections are cheaper and more available than air routes.

But safety standards are not strictly enforced and many ferries are overcrowded.

REUTERS SHB HS1347

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