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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (October 25, 1999 – Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---Rescuer workers have found 53 passengers from the MV Bimas Raya II ferry which sank off the southern coast of Irian Jaya last Monday. Fifteen were dead, and 38 others have been taken to Merauke Hospital.

Bimas Raya sank in Hobe-Okaba waters, 60 miles west of Merauke, on a voyage from Kimaam to Merauke.

The head of the Irian Jaya Transportation Office, H.F. Nelwan, said five ships and an Army Puma helicopter were involved in the rescue operation.

Nelwan said the number of passengers on the ill-fated ship could not be determined for certain.

"The ship's crew reported 159 passengers, exceeding the maximum limit of 125. Local sources said there were 300 people on board," he said.

Identification of victims and survivors was made difficult because many passengers did not have I.D. cards, he said.

A series of riots erupted in Merauke following the accident when relatives of missing passengers protested at the poor rescue efforts undertaken by the government. Local military commander Lt. Col. Udin Supidin said a group of people had sought refuge at military installations following threats from unidentified persons.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News") Website: http://www.irja.org/ 

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