JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An overloaded ferry capsized and sank in stormy weather off the coast of Sulawesi, leaving 300 passengers feared drowned in one of Indonesia's worst sea disasters, the Antara news agency said Sunday.
The 251-ton Hasrat Mulia, designed to hold just 60 passengers, was carrying about 400 people when it capsized Thursday, the national news service said in its first report of the incident.
Quoting survivors, it said about 100 passengers survived by clinging to debris in the Makassar strait between South Sulawesi and East Borneo for 13 hours before being rescued by fishing boats. Initial reports said at least 300 people were feared drowned.
'We met bad weather and the ship quickly sank,' a survivor told Antara. 'We were first rescued 13 hours after the mishap when a small fishing vessel and then another larger private boat sighted us and started rescuing people'.
Indonesia's search and rescue team received no distress signal from the ship and was unaware the disaster had occurred, Antara said. It was not immediately clear whether the ship was equipped with radio as required by national law.
The Hasrat Mulia encountered rough weather and sank as it sailed from Parepare, 870 miles northeast of Jakarta, to Borneo.
Indonesia, which comprises more than 3,000 islands, is hard-pressed to provide adequate inter-island sea travel for thousands of travelers. Minor mishaps on the seas and straits are frequent and private ships often take more passengers than they should.
A passenger ferry carrying about 100 passengers capsized July 5 off the Buru Island coast northwest of Jakarta after hitting a log. Some 80 passengers drowned.
The latest incident was reported on the eve of a corruption trial stemming from the purchase of another ship, which sank in 1980, killing at least 700 people in Indonesia's worst sea disaster.
Two high-ranking Indonesian officials and two ship brokers will stand trial on corruption charges in the purchase of the Tampomas-2, which was never certified as seaworthy for passengers. A government investigation also found it overloaded and lacking adequate firefighting and life saving equipment.
The latest sinking is likely to highlight the government's failure to control shipping.