Rescuers have pulled out 25 people from the sea while two children have died after a boat carrying more than 100 went missing as it was hit by a storm in the southern Sulawesi waters. The vessel had left Kolaka in south-east Sulawesi on 19 December and was headed for Siwa in south Sulawesi, which lies across the Gulf of Boni.

"Two children died," transport ministry spokesman JA Barata, said in a statement and added that four people trapped in fish nets were rescued and taken to hospital by fishermen. He said the boat was carrying 118 people, including 19 children and 10 crew members.

"(The boat) may be upside down now," Roki Azikin, head of the local rescue team, was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Other passengers are still out in the sea wearing life jackets and we're evacuating," he added.

The port authorities lost contact with the boat after 4 to 5 metre waves crashed into it damaging its hull, causing water to enter and its engine to break down, officials said.

Local media had earlier reported that the boat had sunk, but authorities denied the reports saying the boat had only lost its power. South Sulawesi police spokesman Frans Barung had said: "The ship has not sunk."

Fatal maritime accidents are common in the Indonesian archipelago, but safety precautions remain almost non-existent even though Indonesians rely heavily on ferry services to travel to more than 17,000 islands.

Earlier this week, a boat sank after it collided with a chemical tanker, six nautical miles (11km) northwest of the island of Batam. Six people were rescued but the other six crewmen of the boat were reported missing or feared dead. Last Sunday (13 December), an overloaded speedboat hit a log in the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan causing it to sink, killing 13 people onboard.