Jakarta Ferry Fire Kills 15

JAKARTA ~ At least 15 people, including three children, were killed on Thursday when a ferry carrying more than 200 passengers caught fire shortly after leaving the nation’s capital, navy officials said.

The blaze broke out aboard the Levina I in the early hours of Thursday when the ship was about 80 kilometers from shore in the Bay of Jakarta.

The ferry was carrying 228 passengers when it left Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok harbour, Hambar Wiyadi, a spokesman for the harbor jetty operator, said.

Another ferry, the Levina II, had managed to rescue more than 200 people, Western Fleet spokesman Hendra Pakan said.

“The latest information from the captain of the Levina II is that the number of those evacuated was 211 alive and those who died numbered six – four adults and two children,” Pakan said.

Earlier reports said 350 people were believed to be on board.

Wiyadi said a firefighting tug boat had been sent to the site of the accident.

Five navy warships and two aircraft were also immediately dispatched to help with evacuation efforts.

The ferry had been heading for Pangkalan Balam on Bangka island off the coast of Sumatra, 500 kilometers north of Jakarta.

The fire was the latest in a string of transport accidents in Indonesia.

A ferry with some 600 people on board sank in rough weather off the north coast of Java island on December 29. About 250 survivors and a couple of dozen bodies were found but more than 300 people are still missing and presumed dead.

A recent string of air and sea accidents has prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to form a team to evaluate and improve transport safety.

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