Blast on ferry off Indonesia's Bali island kills 2, injures 18

Police conduct investigations on a ferry following an explosion on the vessel in Karang Asem.
Police conduct investigations on a ferry following an explosion on the vessel in Karang Asem. PHOTO: AFP
Police and investigators examine the ferry.
Police and investigators examine the ferry.PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO
A paramedic team attending to an injured person from the ferry.
A paramedic team attending to an injured person from the ferry. PHOTO: EPA
A police forensic team examine the ferry.
A police forensic team examine the ferry. PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO
 Tourists' luggage seen on the dock next to the ferry.
Tourists' luggage seen on the dock next to the ferry. PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO

JAKARTA (REUTERS/AFP) - An explosion on a ferry between the Indonesian resort islands of Bali and Lombok on Thursday (Sept 15) killed two foreigners and injured 18 others, the authorities said.

The boat was carrying 35 passengers, all of whom were foreigners, and four crew members, and had just left Padang Bai port in eastern Bali on Thursday morning when the blast occurred.

An Austrian woman was killed along with a second female foreigner, whose nationality was still being verified.

Bali police spokesman Made Sudana said the explosion happened off the coast of Lombok. "It seems there was some sort of explosion on the boat, so there was an emergency with the engine."

AFP reported that the death toll was one and that 14 were injured.

TV footage showed dazed, bloodied passengers lying on hospital beds and being carried into ambulances on stretchers.

The blast appeared to have happened in the fuel tank, said the police, adding it was not caused by a bomb. Indonesia has a poor maritime safety record and there have been similar incidents in the past where no foul play was detected.

"The explosion happened five minutes after the boat departed," local police chief Sugeng Sudarso told AFP, adding the vessel had been about 200m from the port.

Teams of police and the bomb squad were initially deployed to investigate but Mr Sudarso later ruled out a bomb as the cause.

"Based on the testimony (from passengers) and from what I saw at the scene, the explosion came from the fuel tank," he said. "Above it was a battery, maybe there was a short circuit that affected the fuel tank."

The authorities said the woman killed on the boat, which was heading for the nearby holiday island of Gili Trawangan, was a foreigner but that they were verifying her identity before releasing more details.

The Austrian woman died later in hospital, Mr Sudarso said.

The dead and injured were taken to medical centres on the island, with TV footage showing dazed, bloodied passengers lying on hospital beds and being carried into ambulances on stretchers.

A manifest provided by the authorities showed that among the passengers were 17 Britons.

According to sources, there were also four from France, four from Italy, and two each from Portugal, Germany , Ireland and Spain. Two more passengers were classified as "others".

Bali and neighbouring Lombok are two of Indonesia's most popular holiday destinations.

The Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is heavily dependent on ferry services but the industry has a poor safety record and fatal accidents are common.

Last year, dozens of tourists were injured when small explosions hit a ferry crossing between Bali and the neighbouring holiday island of Lombok.

The explosions were an accident and thought to have come from the fuel tank of the ferry, which was carrying 129 passengers, most of them tourists.

However, fears have also been growing in Indonesia that radicals who have headed to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in the Middle East could encourage supporters back home to launch attacks, or may launch attacks themselves on their return.

In January, a gun and suicide bomb attack claimed by ISIS in the capital Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead.

Bali has been attacked by Islamic radicals before. In 2002, more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed in bombings on the island.

A sustained crackdown following the Bali bombings had weakened the most dangerous networks but ISIS has proved a potent new rallying cry for the country's extremists.

A pocket of Hinduism in Muslim-majority Indonesia, Bali attracts millions of foreign visitors every year due to its palm-fringed, tropical beaches and picture-postcard temples.