Navy says 16 people dead in Indonesian passenger ferry fire

A fire broke out on an Indonesian ferry carrying 350 passengers Thursday, killing at least eight people and prompting a massive rescue operation, the navy and port officials said.

Click here to see photos of the fire on board Indonesian ferry

The accident occurred hours after the Levina 1 left the capital, Jakarta, for the northwestern island of Bangka, port spokesman Hambar Wiyadi said. The cause was not immediately known.

Heavy black smoke poured from the 2,000-ton ship and local television footage showed a fire raging in the car deck.

At least 211 passengers and crew were rescued, said Col. Hendra Pakan, and dozens of injured arrived at the Jakarta port, where emergency vehicles were waiting. Some were taken to nearby hospitals and others treated in a make-shift medical hall at the port.

Wiyadi, the port official, said at least eight people were killed. Two of them, the navy said, were children.

Two warships, three helicopters, a tug boat and nine cargo ships were dispatched to the scene, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Jakarta's port, Wiyadi said.

The navy said the ferry was carrying 350 passengers. The ferry's log indicated it had 228 passengers, 42 trucks and eight cars on board, but tallies are often incomplete and boats overloaded.

In the vast nation of 17,000 islands, ferries are the cheapest and most popular form of public transportation. But safety standards are poor, leading to hundreds of deaths each year.

Indonesia has been hit by a string of transportation disasters in recent months, reports AP.

In late December, a passenger ferry sank in a storm in the Java Sea, killing more than 400 people. Days later, a Boeing 737-400 passenger plane crashed into the ocean, killing all 102 people on board.

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