44 Saved in Indonesian Ferry Sinking; 22 Missing

MAUMERE, Indonesia -- Indonesian fishermen who rushed to the scene of a ferry sinking helped rescuers save 44 passengers, plucking them out of rough seas, an official said Saturday. No one has been found dead so far, but nearly two dozen people are still missing a day after the ship went down.

The Karya Pinang was carrying 66 crew and passengers when it sank Friday about seven miles off the cape of Watumanuk on Flores island in Indonesia's East Nusatenggara province.

Riswan, an official of the local Search and Rescue Agency, said rescuers and quick-acting fishermen took 44 survivors to a local hospital for examination. Officials have called off the rescue operation for the night but will resume the search Sunday, according to Riswan, who uses only one name.

The cause of the accident was still not clear, but Willy Tal, an official at the Port Authority in the town of Maumere on Flores, said the ferry was sailing in heavy waves against a strong current. The boat was going from a town in Flores' north to Maumere when it sank.

Tal said his office had received a report of another boat -- a small freighter with seven crew -- going down off Flores on Saturday. Three people were apparently missing while the others survived, said Tal, who was still trying to verify the report.

Ships are a main source of transportation in Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands. Accidents are frequent because boats are often overloaded and poorly maintained.