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Dozens Dead After Ferry Sinks Off the Coast of Indonesia

At least 34 people have been confirmed dead in a ferry sinking off the coast of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province. (Credit: Mustafa Syahril/APMustafa via CNN)

At least 34 people have been confirmed dead in a ferry sinking off the coast of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province. (Credit: Mustafa Syahril/APMustafa via CNN)

At least 34 people have been confirmed dead in a ferry sinking off the coast of Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province.

Images from the scene Tuesday showed passengers in bright orange life vests clinging to the side of the KM Lestari Maju as it tilted sharply into the water not far from the coast of Bulukumba regency, near Selayar Island.

At the time of the crash, the boat was filled over capacity, with a total of 189 passengers. Cars, buses and trucks were also on board at the time.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster management agency, said 155 people had managed to swim or be pulled to safety.

A leak on board the port side of the ship caused it to quickly run into trouble on rough seas.

As the boat began taking on water, the captain of the ship steered the vessel toward the nearby Selayar Island, and deliberately crashed it in the shallows to save as many lives as possible, Nugroho said.

The rescue effort was initially complicated by the bad weather, which prevented large boats from approaching the wreck and trapped some passengers on the stricken ship overnight.

However, a fleet of smaller boats — including local fishing vessels — stepped in Wednesday to help.

Deadly maritime accidents are not uncommon in Indonesia. Tuesday’s sinking comes two weeks after another ferry accident in a volcanic lake in Sumatra.

More than 190 people were presumed drowned in that incident, said to be one of the worst maritime accidents in the country for decades.