A ferry caught fire near Jakarta, Indonesia this morning. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said at least 23 had died and at least seventeen remain missing.
The Zahro Express caught fire shortly after leaving Muara Angke port in Jakarta. It was heading to Tidung Island, in the Kepulauan Seribu chain. Police said the fire began in the engine area.
A manifest listed 100 passengers, but officials estimated over 200 were on board. Sumarsono, acting governor of Jakarta, dismissed suggestions the vessel was overloaded. Its blackened wreckage was towed back to Muara Angke.
Rescuers continue to search for bodies. As of earlier today, nine of the injured remained in hospital. Three bodies have been identified as Jaksen Wilhelmus, Masduki, and Alia. Jaksen and Masduki are both from West Java. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said ten ships continue to search for bodies or survivors.
“Fifteen minutes after the boat set sail, people at the back of the boat started making noise,” one survivor said. “Then I saw smoke, there was more and more, the boat was crowded and people were fighting for life jackets.” Another told Reuters passengers panicked when the fire broke out, and were met with a sudden conflagration when flames reached fuel.
Boat accidents are common in the island nation. The National Transportation Safety Committee reported to The Jakarta Post today that shipping accidents were up from fifteen in 2015 to 28 in 2016. Lead marine investigator Aldrin Dalimunte told the paper some boats are well-maintained but run by poorly-trained crew who lack the motivation and knowledge to prevent accidents.