Cargo ship, crew vanish from Indonesian waters

JAKARTA (AFP) - A cargo ship and two dozen crew members have vanished in waters off Indonesia's remote Maluku islands, the authorities said on Wednesday (Aug 28).

The 190m vessel, carrying nickel ore, was travelling from Halmahera island to Sulawesi island last week when it sent a distress call shortly before losing radio contact.

Rough seas hampered earlier efforts to reach the remote area of the vast archipelago where the ship was last detected, according to local search and rescue chief Muslimin Samaila.

"We got there and found nothing," he said. "There was no sign of the boat or its crew. Its whereabouts are a mystery."

The incident comes after three people died and more than 300 were rescued when a boat travelling from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya to Balikpapan on Borneo island burst into flames last Friday.

The South-east Asian nation of more than 17,000 islands is heavily dependent on boat transport, but safety standards are lax and fatal maritime accidents are common.

In June, 21 people died when an overloaded ferry sank in rough seas off Java's north coast.

Some 160 people drowned when an Indonesian ferry sank into the depths of one of the world's deepest lakes on Sumatra island last year.