Indonesia: 17 still missing after Zahro Express boat fire kills 23
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Indonesia: 17 still missing after Zahro Express boat fire kills 23

A SEARCH resumed Monday for 17 people reported missing after a ferry fire off the coast of Indonesia’s capital that left at least 23 dead, officials said.

The victims died Sunday when the vessel, Zahro Express, carrying more than 260 people from a port near Jakarta to Tidung, a resort island in the Kepulauan Seribu chain, caught fire, officials said.

Most of the passengers were Indonesians celebrating the New Year holiday, according to local media reports.

The Associated Press quoted Dito, an official from the Jakarta Search and Rescue Agency, as saying at least five ships and a number of speedboats and rubber boats were deployed in the search.

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Of the 224 passengers who were rescued, 32 were being treated at three hospitals, said Dito, who uses a single name.

Seply Madreta, an official from the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the fire gutted about half the vessel, and that 23 bodies had been recovered.

Twenty bodies that were found inside the vessel were burned beyond recognition and were transferred to a police hospital for identification, said Col. Umar Shahab of the Jakarta police health department.

Despite the high number of people who were rescued, the ferry’s manifest showed that only 100 were registered as passengers, along with six crewmen, said Denny Wahyu Haryanto, head of the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency. He said the vessel’s captain was under police investigation over the incident.

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On Sunday, police said the Zahro Express caught fire shortly after leaving Muara Angke port in North Jakarta. The cause of the fire was thought to be a short circuit on a power generator.

According to the head of Jakarta’s search and rescue agency, Hendra Sudirman, 248 people were on board, more than double the previous estimate of 100, and out of more than 200 people rescued, 32 were being treated at hospitals in Jakarta.

Sea accidents are frequent in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago, with vessels often overloaded and having too few life jackets on boat.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters