Image: Huge smoke billow from the burning ferry
Kris Aria  /  AFP - Getty Images
Smoke billows from a burning ferry as seen from the shore of Merak, Indonesia, on Friday,
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/28/2011 3:04:47 AM ET 2011-01-28T08:04:47

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. (3 p.m. ET Thursday), just 40 minutes after the loaded down ship left Merak port on Java island for neighboring Sumatra.

Thirty minutes before and 225 miles to the east, hundreds of people were injured and five killed when two passenger trains collided in the outskirts of Banjar, a village in West Java province.

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"We're still investigating," said Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the Transportation Ministry, as rescuers shuttled dozens of injured to nearby hospitals, some in critical condition.

At the site of the ferry fire, billowing clouds of black smoke could be seen from the shore less than two miles 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.

Image: Rescuers carry a ferry fire survivor at port
AP
Rescuers carry a ferry fire survivor at port in Merak, Banten province, Indonesia, on Friday.

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.

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

Footage on MetroTV showed plumes of black clouds shooting from the ferry, which was also carrying dozens of cars and trucks packed with cargo.

An Indonesian newspaper showed an image of the ferry with its topsides burned as a tugboat sprayed water on it.

The Sunda Strait lies between Java and Sumatra. Merak is on Java just west of Jakarta.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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