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Indonesian ferry stampede kills eight

September 28, 2011

JAKARTA: A stampede triggered when a fire broke out on board a docked ferry in Indonesia left at least eight people dead and dozens injured today, officials said.

More than 500 passengers panicked when a freight truck carrying onions overheated and caught fire around dawn aboard the KM Kirana IX, docked at the giant Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya, eastern Java’s biggest city.

“The passengers heard there was a fire and they all panicked and ran off the boat,” Disaster Management Agency head Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. “Eight people have died and others have been taken to hospital.”

East Java’s provincial search and rescue team was still looking for one passenger who jumped overboard in panic.

Subhan, a passenger, told TV One that he saw three passengers jump into the water.

When he heard of the fire, Subhan threw his belongings into the sea hoping to have a chance to retrieve them if the ferry sank, and ran to find his wife and children.

“Everyone was screaming and running to the exit gate,” he said. “The gate was so narrow, so people were pushing each other to find their way out.”

The fire charred the front of the truck and its windscreen was left broken, but the ship’s owner Bambang Haryo told Metro TV that the blaze had not caused any serious damage, only burning part of the deck.

“We quickly extinguished the fire, following standard safety procedures, by activating the sprinklers as soon as we detected it,” he said.

A crew member tried to keep passengers calm, Haryo said. “But there were just too many people to manage.”

The Kirana IX has a capacity of 850 people and was due to sail to South Kalimantan province, on the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo

Ferries are an essential means of transport across the Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.

But services are highly variable, with some craft ageing and badly maintained vessels, leaving the country with a poor sea safety record.

The stampede was Indonesia’s third deadly maritime accident in eight days: 13 people were killed Saturday when a boat sank off East Java, and 25 were killed Tuesday last week when a boat sank off the resort island of Bali.

More than 300 people drowned when a heavily overloaded ferry sank off Sulawesi island in January last year.

– AFP


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