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Hundreds Feared Drowned in Indonesian Ferry Disaster

  • Chad Bouchard

Indonesian rescue workers are searching for survivors after a ferry carrying some 600 passengers sank in rough seas north of Java Island. So far at least 24 people have been rescued - many drifting in life jackets. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta.

Indonesian officials say the ferry sank during a storm just after midnight early Saturday as it traveled between Borneo and Java Island. The Senopati went down about 30 miles south of Kalimantan.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered national agencies to help in the search.

"Now search and rescue is being instructed in the location - so Navy ships are being pulled into that location. So that's what we know right now. We're waiting for a new report," said presidential spokesman Andi Mallarengeng.

Navy officials say at least three military vessels are helping with the search, and police helicopters are looking for wreckage. Waves as high as 20 feet and torrential rain were hampering the rescue operation.

Mallarangeng says the search is progressing slowly.

"The weather, you know, is still not very good but in the meantime, the president is instructing the weather agency to continue making reports - especially in those areas where the weather is bad," he explained.

Government officials say it may be days before a complete list of victims can be released.

Ferries - a popular and affordable means of transport among Indonesia's 17,000 islands - are often not up to safety standards and filled beyond their recommended capacity with the passenger manifests incomplete.

The sinking comes as millions of Indonesians travel for a holiday weekend.

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