Hundreds missing in "asylum" boat sinking off Indonesia
More deaths that can be laid at the feet of the "compassionate" ALP -- for encouraging these boats to come
AN overloaded wooden vessel carrying about 250 migrants and suspected to be heading to Australia has sunk off Indonesia's main island of Java. So far only 33 people have been rescued, search and rescue officials said, with efforts to reach survivors hampered by bad weather and heavy seas.
"A boat carrying around 250 people has sunk south of Prigi beach in eastern Java and we have started a search and rescue effort," the national search and rescue team said in an sms message.
State-run news agency Antara quoted search team member Brian Gauthier as saying: "The boat sank Saturday evening. "It is somewhat difficult to go on with the search because extreme weather has caused reduced visibility," he said.
Thirty-three people have been rescued and are receiving assistance in the town of Prigi, about 30km from where the boat sank, Mr Gauthier said, adding that the rescue team believed some passengers were still alive and were likely suffering "severe dehydration". "They must be evacuated as soon as possible," he said. "They can't stay for long in the middle of the sea."
The boat is believed to be a traditional fishing vessel with a capacity of around 100. A survivor from Afghanistan, 24-year-old Esmat Adine, gave rescuers an estimate for how many passengers were on the boat. "He did not know exactly how many passengers there were, but he said that four buses with around 60 or more adult passengers each had turned up to the port where they set off," a translator for Adine said.
Adine said the boat had been heading towards Australia's Christmas island.
Because people were so tightly packed, they had nowhere to go, he said. "That made the boat even more unstable and eventually it sank," he said.
Adine said that he and others survived by clinging to parts of the broken vessel until they were picked up by local fishermen. He estimated that more than 40 children were on the ship. It was not immediately clear if any were rescued.
Watulimo sub-district police chief Muhammed Khoiril told Detik.com today: "After interviewing the passengers, we've learnt that they originate from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. There also are some from Dubai."
Thousands of asylum seekers head through Southeast Asian countries on their way to Australia every year and many link up with people smugglers in Indonesia for the dangerous sea voyage.
Canberra has failed in its efforts to set up a regional processing centre in neighbouring countries in an attempt to reduce the flow of asylum seekers heading to Australia.
Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of 240 million people, has more than 18,000 islands and thousands of kilometres of unpatrolled coastline, making it a key transit point for smuggling migrants.
The private television station Metro TV reported that 33 people had been found alive and that perhaps 215 others were still missing.
Last month a ship carrying about 70 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan capsized off the southern coast of Central Java; at least eight people died.