Nearly 800 Rescued after Ferry Catches Fire

JAKARTA ~ A ferry caught fire on Sunday in a river in Kalimantan, but all of the nearly 800 people on board were rescued unharmed, a harbor official said.

The ferry caught fire about 40 kilometers before reaching its destination in Sampit, Central Kalimantan, said the official, Abdul Kadir.

“All the passengers on board have been rescued,” Kadir said.

The blaze was finally extinguished five hours after it was discovered at the back of the ferry, Sampit Police Chief Jihartono said, adding an investigation would be carried out.

He said the evacuation of the 712 registered passengers and 57 crew on board had gone smoothly, but it was not yet clear whether there were other people on the boat.

“But so far we have not heard of any information of fatalities,” he said, adding there were other boats nearby when the fire broke out, making the rescue effort easier.

Kadir said residents on the riverbank also helped to rescue the passengers and crew when the ferry caught fire.

“The boat had no adequate fire-fighting equipment, so efforts were dedicated to rescuing the people on board,” he said, adding all those rescued were now in temporary shelters on the riverbank.

He declined to comment on the possible cause of the blaze, but said police and transport officials had reached the scene.

Boats here are often overloaded due to lax safety standards. In December 2006 more than 500 people were killed when a ferry sank in a storm off the coast of Java.

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