Indonesia Ferry Sinks; Hundreds Feared Dead

Reports of survivor numbers conflict
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2009 3:00 PM CST
Indonesian ellite Brigade Mobile policemen and ambulances come off a ferry at Cilacap port in central Java, Indonesia, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008.   (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
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(Newser) – Hundreds are presumed dead after a passenger ferry sank off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the Times of London reports. The 700-ton Borneo-bound ship was carrying about 260 people when it capsized today under a massive wave brought on by the local rainy season. Rescue efforts are under way, hampered by severe wind and heavy rains, authorities say.

Government reports on survivors are conflicting: One spokesman says 18 people have been rescued, and a minister insists 150 survivors are in “good condition.” Many passengers threw themselves into the sea after the ship—which reportedly only had three lifeboats—was hit by a freak 13-foot wall of water. As the world's biggest archipelago, Indonesia relies on such ships to ferry people between its 17,000 islands.