Indonesian passenger ferry catches fire; 11 dead

A crowded ferry caught fire in Indonesia early Friday, killing at least 11 people and sending panicked passengers jumping into the sea, officials said. Nearly 200 people were injured, some critically.

Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the Transportation Ministry, said the blaze broke out at around 3 a.m., just 40 minutes after the loaded down ship left Merak port on Java island for neighboring Sumatra.

Billowing clouds of black smoke could be seen from the shore, less than two miles (three kilometers) away, and five rescue ships rushed to the scene.

By late morning, 427 people had been shuttled to safety, said Wiratno, another ministry official, adding that no one else appeared to be trapped inside.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.

Some survivors told MetroTV they thought it was started by a man who threw his lit cigarette butt onto the deck.

Roland, a doctor at one of several hospitals treating victims, said 11 bodies had been recovered.

Ferries are a main source of transportation in Indonesia, an archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands and 235 million people.

Accidents are common due to overcrowding and poor safety standards.