Indonesia ferry catches fire at sea; all 195 aboard safe

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A large ferry with nearly 200 people on board caught fire Saturday while traveling to a remote island in northeastern Indonesia, forcing passengers and crew to jump into the sea but causing no casualties, officials said.

The KM Karya Indah was in the Molucca Sea heading for Sanana, a port on the island of Limafatola, when the fire broke out at around 7 a.m. local time, said Wisnu Wardana, a spokesperson for the sea transportation directorate general. The blaze began 15 minutes after the vessel had departed Ternate, the provincial capital of North Maluku province.

Phone video of the incident provided by the National Search and Rescue Agency 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.

Wardana said all 181 passengers, including 22 children, and 14 crew members were rescued and safely evacuated to a nearby island. He said the agency’s rescue operation also involved local fishing boats that happened to be in the vicinity.

He said authorities were still investigating the cause of the incident, and that survivors told authorities the fire apparently started in the engine room.

Ferry accidents are common in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands. Many accidents are blamed on the lax regulation of boat services.

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