[Updated] Ferry Fire: Twenty-Three Dead

Zahro Express
Zahro Express on fire in Indonesia.

By MarEx 2017-01-01 16:11:13

A ferry fire in Indonesia on New Year’s Day has left 23 people dead and at least 17 injured.

The Zahro Express was en route from Muara Angke Port in Jakarta to Tidung Island when it caught fire.

The boat manifest listed 100 passengers, but Jakarta search and rescue spokesman Ramli Prasetio said 247 passengers had been rescued so far. An unknown number may still be missing. The Zahro Express had a maximum capacity of 280 passengers.

All those rescued so far have been Indonesian, but the 20 bodies found on the ferry have been badly burnt, making it difficult to identify them.

Local media report a witness saying that the fire started in the engine room about 20 minutes after the ferry left port. The ferry quickly filled with black smoke. People panicked and jumped overboard, some fighting for life jackets. The ferry is said to have then exploded.

Police have detained the captain of the ferry amid allegations he was the first to abandon ship. Five other people, including three crew members and two port authority staff, are also being held in police custody.

Indonesia has a poor ferry safety record. The National Transportation Safety Commission reports an increase in the number of accidents due to extreme weather and human error. The number of incidents increased from 15 in 2015 to 28 in 2016, according to local media.

At least 54 people died in November when an overcrowded speedboat carrying Indonesian migrant workers struck a reef and sank on its way from Malaysia to Batam. Last September, two people died and 18 were injured after an explosion on a ferry travelling between East Bali and the Gili islands. In June 2015, 25 passengers were injured in a fire on a fast ferry travelling between Lombok and Bali.