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Indonesian ferry carrying 271 people catches fire near Bali

A passenger ferry carrying 271 people caught fire Wednesday off Indonesia’s resort island of Bali, but there were no immediate reports of casualties and evacuation efforts were ongoing, rescue officials said.

The Mutiara Timur I was carrying 236 passengers and 35 crew members when it caught fire in the Bali Strait, about a mile from Karangasem beach.

Dozens of rescuers, navy sailors and local fishermen were trying to evacuate people to two navy ships and and there were no immediate reports of injuries, said Bali’s search and rescue agency head Gede Darmada.

“We are still focus on evacuation efforts,” Darmada said, adding that the cause of the fire was being investigated.

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Photos and video released by the National Search and Rescue Agency showed rescuers in inflatable boats evacuating the passengers to a navy ship while black smoke billowed from the burning ferry.

The ferry was heading from Lembar port in West Nusa Tenggara province from East Java’s Ketapang town, according to Darmada.

Sea accidents caused by overcrowding and poor safety standards are common in the archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands, where ferries are often used for transport.

In 2018, an overcrowded ferry with about 200 people sank in a deep volcanic crater lake in North Sumatra province, killing 167 people. In one of the country’s worst disasters, an overcrowded passenger ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people aboard. There were only 20 survivors.

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