More than 200 people are still missing after an overcrowded ship carrying asylum seekers to Australia sank today off the coast of Java, Indonesia.
The asylum seekers, mainly from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, were being illegally transported to Australia.
Indonesian authorities have so far given differing accounts of the number of people missing, but the East Java Disaster Mitigation Centre reported that 76 of the 380 passengers have been rescued so far.
Sahrul Arifin, the head of emergency and logistics at the East Java Disaster Mitigation Centre, said: “”Our search-and-rescue team has begun sweeping the water around where the accident took place, but we are now sending body bags.”
A search-and-rescue spokesman, Hariyadi Purwanto, reported that the boat had a capacity of only about 100 people.
“Based on a statement from the victims, waves hit the side of the boat, breaking it in half, and then it capsized,” Purwanto said. “Fishermen found them about 20 miles from the shore when the waves were as high as two to three metres (six to nine feet).”
The survivors reported that asylum seekers all paid between US$2,500 and $5,000 to be taken to Australia.
Last month another boat carrying 70 asylum seekers capsized near Indonesia, claiming the lives of at least eight.