At least 728 rescued from burning Indonesian ferry

Sunday, May 18, 2008

At least 706 passengers and 22 crew have been rescued after fire broke out on the top deck of an Indonesian passenger ferry. According to ABC News citing Sampit Police Chief Jihartono talking to ElShinta, at least 712 passengers and 57 crew were rescued.

The boat was sailing from Surabaya, East Java to the port of Sampit, which is inland on the Mentaya river in Borneo. The ferry had reached the river and was near the town of Samuda when fire broke out.

A number of boats were nearby at the time and were able to assist with rescue operations, as were residents on the river bank. It is believed that all on board were safely rescued, with four hospitalised and the rest in shelters at the riverside, but it is difficult to be sure because ferries often carry more passengers than manifestos suggest in Indonesia, where they are a major form of transport between the many islands that comprise the nation. Most of the passengers worked at local palm oil plantations.

Harbour official Abdul Kadir told the press "The boat had no adequate fire-fighting equipment, so efforts were dedicated to rescuing the people on board," and said that transport officials and police have arrived at the scene. It took five hours to extuinguish the blaze, and an investigation will be conducted.