29 dead, 17 missing as Indonesian ferry sinks

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Rescuers saved more than 240 people aboard an Indonesian passenger ferry that sank in rough waters, but 29 people died and at least 17 others were missing, officials said.

The Dumai Express 10 sank Sunday in stormy weather about 90 minutes into an interisland trip from Batam to Dumai in Riau, a province off Sumatra island in western Indonesia. A second ferry ran aground nearby, but all its passengers were said to be safe.

Indonesian ferry accidents have killed hundreds of people in recent years. Boats are often overcrowded, and safety regulations are poorly enforced. The vast country spans more than 17,000 islands.

The stricken ferry went down about 30 minutes after huge waves damaged its bow and water started seeping in, according to a report from the ship's captain, said Lt. Col. Edwin, the local navy chief.

A survivor, who only gave his name as Riki, said he escaped by breaking a window and was rescued by fishermen, the official news agency Antara reported.

' 'It was too fast... and the ship crew did not tell us about the situation at all,'' he said.

He said he saw some passengers jump into the sea without life jackets. Passing boats picked up dozens and took them to nearby islands for medical treatment.

Local television news showed two survivors, wearing life jackets, floating on the water.

High waves made the rescue operation difficult. At its peak, at least nine ships and several fishing boats searched the choppy sea.

Rescue teams found 29 bodies, including those of two children, according to the latest reports, said Rustam Pakaya, the head of the Health Ministry's crisis center. He said at least 17 others were believed to be missing.

Authorities called off search and rescue operations after nightfall but planned to resume early today, said Yasin Kosasih, a local police chief coordinating the rescue mission.