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At Least 21 Die in Indonesian Ferry Sinking - 2004-03-19


A ferry has sunk in waters in northeastern Indonesia. The latest reports say at least 21 people have died and five are missing.

Reports from the area say most of the passengers were traveling to a wedding when the ferry sank near Kabaruan Island, close to Indonesia's maritime boundary with the Philippines.

A spokesman for the Indonesian navy, which is leading the investigation, says the boat had been overloaded, with as many as 180 people traveling on a vessel that should have held fewer than 50. Most of the survivors were rescued by local boats.

A local official said strong winds and high waves contributed to the foundering.

Indonesia is comprised of more than 17,000 islands, and ferry transport is a lifeline for much of the population. But the country has a patchy record on maritime safety. Four years ago, a ferry carrying refugees from a flare-up of civil unrest on the Maluku islands sank. Only 10 of the estimated 500 passengers were rescued.

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