updated 10/19/2007 5:08:13 AM ET 2007-10-19T09:08:13

A crowded passenger boat capsized in eastern Indonesia, killing at least 15 people, with several others possibly missing, an official said.

Local police chief Mochammad Badrus said survivors reported that the Acita III tipped after scores of passengers suddenly climbed to its upper deck to try and get mobile phone signals as it closed in on land.

Badrus said 146 people were on board when it tipped close to Buton island late Thursday, while another official, Harijogi, the director general of sea transportation at the transport ministry, put the number of passengers and crew at 82.

Such discrepancies are common in Indonesia, where passenger manifests are not accurately kept.

There was also disagreement as to the number of dead and missing.

Badrus said rescuers had found at least 26 bodies and all other passengers were safe, although 40 required at least some medical treatment. Harijogi said 15 people were killed and six were missing.

Ferries are a main source of transportation in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands with a population of 220 million. Overcrowding and poorly enforced safety standards mean accidents are common.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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