JAKARTA, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Scores of passengers were believed to be trapped inside a passenger ship after it caught fire off East Java province in central Indonesia as the search and rescue operation was underway, a senior rescue official said on Friday.
KM Santika Nusantara caught fire when it was passing waters off Maselembu in Sumenep district on Thursday night, and the fire had not been extinguished, head of operation section of the provincial search and rescue office Supriono Mesiham said.
"The fire is still burning in the ship now. Our focus is to help and search for the victims first," he told Xinhua over phone.
Under such conditions, the rescuers could not enter the ship, Supriono said, adding "Now, the rescuers with two ships are searching for victims in waters around the burning ship."
Supriono said the fire erupted in the engine room, but he did not elaborate, saying an investigation would be launched by the national transport safety committee (KNKT).
So far, a total of 140 people have been rescued, some of them being rushed onto a nearby island and others to the provincial sea port, said Supriono.
The number of survivors exceeded those on the list of passengers as it is commonly found in the country.
"The recorded number of people on board, including passengers and the ship crews, is 111," spokesman of the Transport Ministry Hengki Angkasawan told Xinhua.
The overloaded ship was en route to a sea port in Balikpapan of East Kalimantan province, said Supriono.