16 dead in fatal fire on Indonesian ferry

At least 16 people are dead after a fire broke out Thursday on an Indonesian ferry carrying 350 passengers, the Indonesian navy said.

At least 16 people are dead after a fire broke out Thursday on an Indonesian ferry carrying 350 passengers, the Indonesian navy said.

The Levina 1 was travelling to Bangka Island, near Sumatra, from the capital city of Jakarta when the fire erupted shortly before dawn. The cause is unknown.

Aerial footage showed a raging fire and heavy black smoke pouring from the 27-year-old ferry.

A massive air and sea rescue was quickly launched and at least 275 passengers and crew have been found alive, Lt. Col. Hendra Pakan told a local radio station.

Two of those reported dead were children and at least 12 people remain unaccounted for, including the ship's captain.

The ferry's log indicated it was carrying 228 passengers, 42 trucks and eight cars on board, but tallies are often incomplete and boats overloaded.

Scores of survivors were plucked from the water and the ship's charred hull. About 60 people who leaped off the burning vessel managed to reach a nearby island, reports said.

Authorities were trying to determine the cause of the fire as two warships, three helicopters, a tug boat and nine cargo ships were dispatched to the scene, about 80 kilometres north of Jakarta's port, said port spokesman Hambar Wiyadi.

Indonesia has been plagued by a string of transportation disasters in recent months.

In December, more than 400 people died when a passenger ferry sank in a storm in the Java Sea. A few days later, a passenger plane crashed into the sea killing 102 passengers and crew.

With files from the Associated Press