News24

Indonesia: Deadly ferry fire, train crash

2011-01-28 08:55

Jakarta - Hundreds of people were injured in Indonesia early on Friday when two passenger trains collided and a crowded ferry burst into flames, officials said. The death toll from the twin disasters stood at 16.

The accidents occurred 30 minutes apart on the main island of Java.

At 02:30, an eastbound train stopped on a track on the outskirts of Banjar, a village in West Java province, and was hit head-on by another slow-moving train that was trying to switch lanes.

"We're still investigating," said Bambang Ervan, a spokesperson for the Transportation Ministry, as rescuers shuttled dozens of injured to nearby hospitals, some in critical condition.

At least five people died, said railway spokesperson Bambang Supriyanto.

Thirty minutes later and 360km to the west, a crowded ferry caught fire in waters just off Java, sending panicked passengers jumping into the water.

Clouds of black smoke


Ervan said the blaze broke out just 40 minutes after the ship left Merak port for neighbouring Sumatra island.

Billowing clouds of black smoke could be seen from the shore, hundreds of metres away, and five rescue ships rushed to the scene, carrying more than 400 survivors to safety.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, but some survivors told MetroTV they thought it was started by a man who threw his lit cigarette butt onto the deck.

Indonesia, an archipelago nation with more than 17 000 islands and 235 million people, has been plagued by a string of transportation accidents in recent years, from aircraft and train crashes to ferry sinkings. Overcrowding, aging infrastructure and poor safety standards are often to blame.