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Search continues for ferry survivors

JAKARTA, Jan. 22 -- Rescue workers Monday resumed a third day of operations in rough waters off western Indonesia, looking for the 135 people still missing from last week's ferry accident, officials said. 'A massive search and rescue operation started again today (Monday), ' said Ayub Amin, an official at Banda Aceh, the capital province of Aceh in the northern end of Sumatra.

He said helicopters, an air force Hercules aircraft and two warships were joining dozens of fishing vessels to scour the sea for survivors or bodies. Amin said Monday's operation was assisted by sophisticated equipment after military divers failed to reach the shipwreck which reportedly went down in 656-foot (200-m) waters about three miles from Sabang harbor. The ferry, the Gurita, was carrying 226 people including a crew of 16, when it sank Friday evening in the waters off the Aceh province during a two-hour voyage from Banda Aceh to Sabang harbor, on the tip of Indonesia's most northwestern island in Aceh province. 'We have a strong indication that most of the people were inside the ferry when the accident occurred which made it impossible to get out safely,' Amin said. 'If they are really trapped inside, there is little hope for them to survive after three days in the deep sea waters. ' Among the 51 bodies recovered, two are women from Ireland and Germany. The 40 survivors include foreigners from the United States, Taiwan, Germany and Great Britain. Transportation Minister Haryanto Dhanutirto denied earlier reports that the ferry was overloaded. 'Based on the inquiry with all the officers in change as well as some survivors, it was clear there was not anything like over-capacity,' Dhanutirto told the official Antara news agency. Survivors had said that bad weather and high waves apparently contributed to the accident.

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