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Rescue crews in Indonesia battle high seas to reach ship with 120 on board

Rescue crews in Indonesia have braved high seas to rescue passengers from a boat overwhelmed by a storm. Two people have been found dead and 23 rescued.

The ferry boat carrying around 120 passengers was hit by 3 to 5 meter waves off the coast of the Sulawesi on Saturday, forcing the captain to send out a distress signal.

On Sunday, fishermen found four people, including a woman and a child wearing life jackets. They told authorities that their boat sank hours after being hit by high waves.

"Latest report we received said a total of 25 people - 23 survivors and two deaths - have been discovered, and are now being evacuated to Siwa," Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata said.

The fiberglass boat was on its way from Kolaka to Siwa, towns on Sulawesi island, with 110 passengers and 12 crew when it was overwhelmed by waves during stormy weather on Saturday afternoon, according to Roki Asikin, head of the search and rescue agency in Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi.

Six rescue boats and ships were sent from Kendari and Makassar after they received a distress call from the crew who reported that the vessel was starting to take on water about 21 kilometers (13 miles) southeast of Siwa port in Wajo district.

Indonesia relies heavily on passenger boats to connect 17,000 islands but the transport sector has a poor safety record.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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