JAKARTA • Indonesia's search and rescue team yesterday saved dozens of passengers and crew members after a ferry capsized in the Bali strait, with an official blaming the accident on leaking, media reported.
"Around 71 people have been rescued and taken to safety, but the helmsman and a desk officer are still missing," Mr Yusuf Hadi, a general manager for ASDP Indonesia Ferry in charge of the service, was quoted by Jakarta Globe as saying in a statement.
The boat, Rafelia II, was leaving Gilimanuk port in Bali to Banyuwangi in the east of Java island.
"Many passengers jumped into the sea when the ferry was sinking," Marsudi, the spokesman for the National Search and Rescue Office, told Xinhua news agency yesterday.
At least 29 vehicles, comprising trucks and minibuses, went down with the ferry, Mr Yusuf said. However, it was not yet clear how many passengers and vehicles were on board at the time, due to an incomplete boat manifest.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
The ship's capacity is dominated by vehicles... The ferry leaked, so it capsized.
MR DIDI HAMZAR, head of Bali's Search and Rescue Agency
Mr Didi Hamzar, head of Bali's Search and Rescue Agency, said the ship's manifest listed 51 people on board, including 14 crewmen. But passenger boats are frequently overloaded in Indonesia, according to The Associated Press.
"The ship's capacity is dominated by vehicles. It carried many vehicles," Mr Hamzar told media. "The ferry leaked, so it capsized."
However, a spokesman for ASDP Indonesia Ferry refused to link the accident to overloading. "I don't think the ferry was over capacity," Mr Iwan Junaidi was quoted by the Kyodo News as saying.
He said the company was investigating the cause of the sinking and added that the ferry was in an appropriate condition to sail.
At its narrowest, the Bali strait, which also connects the Indian Ocean and Bali Sea, is 2.4km wide.
Ships are a favourite transport mode in Indonesia, an archipelagic country home to over 17,500 islands with a population of 256 million. But a lack of safety standards has often triggered sea accidents, Xinhua said.