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Ferry Capsizes in Indonesia

December 14, 2001

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A ferry overloaded with people heading home to celebrate the end of Ramadan capsized off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, rescue officials said Friday. At least 14 passengers drowned.

An unknown number of people are still missing, said Rotinsulu Rampen, who is coordinating search and rescue efforts.

The Wanabakti sank Wednesday shortly after setting off from Ampana port in Central Sulawesi, he said. The ferry was bound for the remote Wakai and Malange islands, about 1,000 miles northeast of Jakarta, he said.

Many people onboard panicked when the boat began tipping, even though it was daylight and the accident occurred close to shore, Rampen said from the city of Manado.

Search teams and local fisherman rescued 135 passengers, Rampen said. The ferry was designed to hold 65 people, he said.

Millions of people throughout Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, travel every year to their home villages to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Islamic holy month, which falls on Sunday.

Maritime safety laws are rarely enforced on boats that ply Indonesia’s waters. The country has no coast guard and its navy has minimal search-and-rescue capability.

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