Casualties avoided as locals step in to help rescue mission
A ferry carrying more than 200 people caught fire on Saturday in Indonesia, forcing passengers and crew to jump into the sea.
No casualties were reported after fire broke out on the KM Karya Indah, which was heading to the remote Indonesian island of Limafatola.
The blaze began at around 7am local time, said Wisnu Wardana, a spokesperson for the sea transportation directorate general. The ship had departed the port of Ternate, in North Maluku province, just 15 minutes before.
Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (NSRA) said officials were notified of the fire at around 8:30am. A rescue team was on the scene within ten minutes, the agency said.
Local residents contributed to the rescue effort, using personal longboats to help carry passengers to land, according to officials.
Video of the incident provided by the NSRA showed passengers and crew clinging to floating objects as they struggled in the choppy water, while the raging fire on the ferry sent up clouds of black smoke.
The NSRA said 257 people were onboard the ferry, 14 of whom were crew members. A smaller figure of 181 passengers was initially reported, but officials revised the number upwards after the evacuation effort.
Mr Wardana said authorities were still investigating the cause of the incident, and that survivors said the fire apparently started in the engine room.
Accidents at sea are common in Indonesia, the the world’s largest archipelago nation where travel by boat is necessary to reach many of its 17,000 islands. Lax regulation of boat services is blamed for many of the accidents.
In April, at least two people were killed after a collision between a cargo ship and a fishing boat off the coast of Indramayu, near capital Jakarta.
One boating disaster in 2018, where a wooden ferry sank in Lake Toba on Sumatra, left more than 150 people missing, who authorities said are now presumed drowned after the search mission ended.
Additional reporting by agencies