Twenty-three dead, more than a dozen missing after ferry catches fire near Indonesian capital
Security forces, Red Cross and rescue workers carry body bags with the remains of victims after a fire ripped through a boat carrying tourists to islands north of the capital, at Muara Angke port in Jakarta, Indonesia. Darren Whiteside / Reuters

JAKARTA // At least 23 people were killed and 17 others were missing after a ferry caught fire on Sunday off the coast of Indonesia’s capital, officials said.

The vessel was carrying more than 230 people from Jakarta’s port of Muara Angke to Tidung, a resort island in the Kepulauan Seribu chain, when it caught fire, officials said.

Seply Madreto, an official from the local Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the fire gutted through about half of the ship. He said about 22 injured victims were rushed to hospitals.

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A search involving 10 ships was under way to find those still missing, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said in a statement.

boatIndonesian national search and rescue team and policemen extinguish the fire as they look for bodies of victims. Adi Weda / EPA

Witnesses told MetroTV that the fire broke out about 15 minutes after the ship left Muara Angke.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. Some passengers told local media that they first saw smoke coming from the ferry’s engine.

TV footage showed people in the water with the ferry in flames in the background. A woman in the water can be heard screaming “Ya Allah! Ya Allah!” or “Oh God! Oh God!”

Another woman told the TV station that she and other passengers were rescued by a small boat.

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

* Associated Press