Migrant ship sinks off Indonesia, 200 missing

Police blamed the mishap on overloading, saying the vessel appeared to have been carrying more than twice its capacity.

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2011, 14:45 PM IST

Jakarta: A wooden ship believed to be carrying more than 200 migrants, many of them from the Middle East, sank on Sunday off Indonesia`s main island of Java, local media reported. So far only 33 people have been rescued.

Police blamed the accident on overloading, telling the official news agency Antara that the vessel appeared to have been carrying more than twice its capacity.

One of the survivors, Esmat Adine, told Antara the ship started rocking from side to side, triggering widespread panic.

Because people were so tightly packed, they had nowhere to go, said the 24-year-old Afghan migrant.

"That made the boat even more unstable and eventually it sank," he said. Adine said that he and others survived by clinging to parts of the broken vessel until they were picked up by local fishermen.

He estimated that more than 40 children were on the ship.

It was not immediately clear if any were rescued.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelagic nation of 240 million people, has more than 18,000 islands and thousands of miles (kilometers) of unpatrolled coastline, making it a key transit point for smuggling migrants.

Those on board Saturday -- apparently heading to Australia -- were from Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

The private television station Metro TV reported that 33 people had been found alive and that perhaps 215 others were still missing.

Last month a ship carrying about 70 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan capsized off the southern coast of Central Java; at least eight people died.

Bureau Report