14 killed after Indonesian passenger boat carrying 240 catches fire

Survivors wearing floatation devices wait to be rescued after their boat caught fire in Naikliu waters off Kupang, Indonesia (AP)
Survivors wearing floatation devices wait to be rescued after their boat caught fire in Naikliu waters off Kupang, Indonesia (AP)

At least 14 people died in a freak boat accident in Indonesia after a vessel carrying 240 people caught fire, officials have said.

The passenger boat KM Express Cantika 77 was en route to Kalabahi from Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara province in southern Indonesia on Monday when a fire broke out on the vessel.

Officials said the boat’s top deck caught fire when it was sailing from provincial capital Kupang to the town of Kalabahi on Alor island, reported AFP.

Thick plumes of black smoke were seen emerging from the rapidly-moving boat, in a video of the fire shared on social media, as several onboard were seen with their life jackets strapped on and sought rescue.

Several people who were rescued had used life vests after the blaze engulfed the boat, while some swam directly to shore.

The cause of the fire is not immediately known.

Of the 240 people on the boat, 230 were passengers while the rest of the 10 people were crew members, rescue officials said.

A separate report by AFP quoted Isyak Nuka, head of East Nusa Tenggara’s transportation body, as saying that the boat was carrying 254 passengers and crew members out of which 241 were rescued, while the rest were died from the blaze.

The national search and rescue agency said the rescuers from the Kupang search and rescue agency and nearby vessels saved 226 survivors.

Officials said three rescue boats and local fishermen were sailed out on boats owned by them to assist the search operation.

Mr Nuka added that rescuers could not easily approach the boat because of the massive fire and strong currents.

He added that some of the survivors from the tragedy are being treated in hospital for shock and the remains of those claimed in the accident will be sent to a police hospital in Kupang for identification.

Officials have said the boat had capacity for 250 people.

Boat tragedies are frequently reported from Indonesia where thousands use ferries for transportation on the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands but concerns around naval safety remain grave.

A previous boat tragedy in 2018 killed 167 people out of around 200 people onboard after the vessel sank in a deep volcanic crater lake in north Sumatra.

Published by anthonyhayble

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