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Indonesia ends search for sunken ferry survivors

Written by: Staff
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JAKARTA, June 29 (Reuters) Indonesia has called off the search for survivors and bodies from a ferry that sank off western Sumatra a week ago, a navy officer said today.

Nearly 100 passengers were rescued after the Sinar Mulia Indah sank in bad weather. Officials said 16 people were confirmed dead and around 20 were still missing.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jaka Santoso, commander of the Sibolga naval base, told Reuters that the search ended yesterday after efforts, including an aerial hunt, failed to yield survivors or bodies.

If there was ''information from fishermen, relatives or whoever can give clear information, we will follow it up,'' he said.

The ferry, which regularly took people from Sibolga on the Sumatra coast to Nias island, popular with surfers, sprang a leak before it hit huge waves.

Ferries are a popular means of transport among the 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.

Precise figures on the missing and presumed dead are often difficult to obtain because manifests do not always list last-minute passengers, while typically some manage to get aboard without paying.

REUTERS SY KN0947

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