Indonesian police detained the captain of a tourist boat that caught fire on Sunday (1 January) for allegedly abandoning the vessel and the passengers following the blaze. The boat was carrying more than 200 people, most of whom were rescued, but 23 people lost their lives in the incident.

Search and rescue teams reportedly continued to scour the waters on Monday (2 January) to ensure no survivors remained to be retrieved. Officials, however, said they believed that all passengers were accounted for.

The fire broke out on the Zahro Express, which was carrying about 250 local holidaymakers for New Year celebrations on the resort island of Tidung, shortly after setting off from capital Jakarta. While an investigation is on into the incident, authorities suspect electrical fault as the cause of the fire.

The vessel was reduced to a blackened wreck following the blaze.

Police said on Monday that the captain, identified as Muhammad Nali in local reports, was being questioned over suspected negligence during the fire. It reportedly emerged that the captain jumped ship first, abandoning the passengers. He was found floating in the sea with passengers before being rescued.

"We are still investigating the case and questioning the captain," Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Agence France Presse, but declined to give any further details.

Tonny Budiono, a senior official at the transport ministry, has reportedly vowed to punish the captain if he is found guilty.

Indonesia, an archipelago, primarily relies on boats to ferry people round its 17,000 islands. However, the safety record is quite patchy resulting in frequent accidents. In September 2016, a tourist boat on the resort island of Bali exploded, killing two foreigners and injuring at least 20 other passengers, AFP reported.

Indonesia boat accident
The remains of a victim is carried away after a fire ripped through a boat carrying tourists to islands north of Indonesian capital Jakarta, on 1 January Reuters