JAKARTA, Indonesia — A passenger ferry collided with a ship believed to be carrying liquefied natural gas and sank west of Indonesia's main island, killing at least eight people while more than 200 were rescued.
The ferry carrying more than 200 crew and passengers collided with the ship about 40 minutes into its 90-minute journey Wednesday morning between Java and Sumatra islands, said Heru Purwanto, an official at Bakauheni port on southern Sumatra.
Experts were checking for gas leaks in the ship. The collision occurred about 4 miles (6 kilometers) from Bakaheuni in Lampung province, said Bambang Ervan, a Transportation Ministry spokesman.
"The ferry went down so fast after the collision," Purwanto said. It sank 20 minutes after the captain sent a distress signal, enabling 10 merchant ships sailing nearby in the busy Sunda Straits to immediately start rescuing passengers and crew, he said.
He said the manifest showed the ferry was carrying 213 passengers and crew, as well as 78 vehicles. It has an official capacity of 300 passengers and 70 vehicles.
But manifests are often unreliable in Indonesia because tickets are sold onboard to passengers who are never registered.
Purwanto said more than 210 passengers and crew had been rescued and eight bodies were pulled from the water, including a 10-year-old girl. They are believed to have jumped into the sea without life jackets and could not swim, he said. More than 80 passengers were hospitalized with injuries, including at least one in critical condition.
Two helicopters and two military ships were joined by naval divers and several other rescue vessels in the search for survivors, said Gagah Prakoso, a spokesman for the National Search and Rescue Agency.
There was no word on the cause of the collision or whether the South African-flagged vessel carrying the liquefied natural gas was damaged.
The Bahuga Jaya ferry links the main Java island with southern Sumatra island. It went down after departing from Merak port in Java.
Ferries are a major source of transportation in Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago nation, with more than 17,000 islands and a population of 240 million. Sea accidents are common due to overcrowding and poor safety standards.