Tourist boat fire off Indonesia leaves 23 dead

Another 22 people were injured in the blaze

Indonesia, boat, sea

Image: Coast of the island of Lombok, off Bali in Indonesia. PA Archive/PA Images

At least 23 people have been killed and dozens rescued after a blaze ripped through a boat carrying tourists to Indonesian islands.

The craft was heading to islands north of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, when it caught fire with around 230 people on board.

Another 22 people needed hospital treatment after being injured, the Thousand Island police said.

One survivor told local media: "Fifteen minutes after the boat set sail, people at the back of the boat started making noise. Then I saw smoke. There was more and more, the boat was crowded and people were fighting for life jackets."

Another passenger said: "When we wanted to go, I panicked because I saw my son jump off the boat without a (life jacket) because somebody else had taken it."

Nearby fishermen managed to get many of the survivors out of the water. The head of Jakarta's search and rescue agency, Hendra Sudirman, said 98 people had been rescued.

A search involving 10 ships has been launched to try to find 17 people still missing. All those on board are believed to have been Indonesian.

The fire broke out aboard the Zahro Express about 15 minutes after it left Muara Angke port in north Jakarta early on Sunday.

The cause of the blaze has not been confirmed, although one police source said it may have been a short circuit on the boat's power generator.

Sea accidents are frequent in Indonesia - a sprawling archipelago - with vessels often overloaded and having too few life jackets on boat.

Local television footage has shown people in the water, with ferry in flames in the background.