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Hopes Fade in Search for Indonesian Ferry Accident Survivors 

The captain of a ferry that sank in Indonesia on Sunday morning carrying 267 passengers and crew, will be asked why he ignored warnings about bad weather and continued to sail through the night. High seas and rain have hampered the effort to find more than 240 people missing. Now more than 36 hours after the disaster, hopes of finding survivors are fading.

Distraught relatives gathered around a passenger list at Parepare's port on Indonesian island of Sulawesi, anxious for news of their loved ones.

Maritime and air force teams are continuing to search for the passengers and crew missing after the Teratai Prima capsized early Sunday morning.

In Jakarta, Transportation Minister Jusman Syafi Djamal says hopes of finding survivors are diminishing.

"Because of the weather and the conditions of the wave it seems that maybe the chance very little, but we hope for the best," he explained.

The Teratai Prima was eight hours into its journey when its captain radioed a distress call, saying the ferry was being lashed by five-meter waves.

The captain leaped into the sea as the vessel sank around four in the morning. He and at least 21 other survivors were later rescued by passing fisherman.

There are unconfirmed reports that more survivors were swept onto nearby islands.

One man described clinging to a piece of wood with his son, who was later swept away by the waves.

Minister Djamal says an investigation is under way as to why the ferry was allowed to sail despite warnings about storms in the area.

"I think the key question is why, when the meteorological department already give [gave] the warning not to enter the area; we still have bad weather condition, but still the captain and also the authority in that area give [gave] the permission for the ship to go," he said.

A port official in Parepare says that seas were calm when the Teratai Prima departed on Saturday evening.

Ferry accidents are common in Indonesia, which is made up of more than 17,000 islands.

Accidents are blamed on a combination of overcrowding, and poorly maintained and aging fleets.