Hundreds missing as asylum boat sinks off Indonesia
AN OVERCROWDED boat suspected to be heading to Australia and carrying hundreds of asylum-seekers has sunk off Indonesia’s main island of Java.
Reports have put the number of asylum-seekers on the boat at between 250 and 380, but only up to 76 had been rescued, Indonesian emergency chief Sahrul Arifin has been quoted as saying. Earlier reports said 33 had been rescued.
One survivor said the boat had been headed for Christmas Island.
The vessel sank off Java’s east coast in rough seas, throwing passengers - most believed to be from the Middle east - into the sea.
“The boat sank Saturday evening, and the national search and rescue team has already moved out to sea to start the search. It is somewhat difficult to go on with the search because extreme weather has caused reduced visibility,” search and rescue team member Brian Gauthier said.
Those rescued were receiving assistance in the town of Prigi in eastern Java, around 30 kilometres 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. They can’t stay for long in the middle of the sea,” he said.
However, he added that it is “somewhat difficult to go on with the search because extreme weather has caused reduced visibility.”
Police earlier blamed yesterday’s accident off Java’s east coast on overloading, telling the official news agency Antara that the vessel appeared to have been carrying more than twice its capacity.