21 June 2012

Boat carrying 200 hundred asylum seekers capsizes

A search and rescue operation is underway after a boat believed to be carrying 200 asylum seekers capsized off the coast of Christmas Island.

A spokesperson for Indonesian search and rescue authorities said the boat is believed to have capsized less than 130 miles north of Christmas Island. Australian authorities have requested permission to enter Indonesian air space to assist the operation and cover a wider area in the search for an unknown number of survivors.

"Australia has asked for clearance to enter Indonesian waters for surveillance flights of P3 Orions," said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the alert was raised when a distress call was received claiming 100 Sri Lankan asylum seekers were aboard the boat.

However, a spokesperson for the Australia maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) claim the figure is nearer 200.

There is a capsized vessel 120 nautical miles north of Christmas Island, there's believed to be approximately 200 people on board," the spokesperson told AFP.
"The Indonesian search and rescue authorities are co-ordinating the response.
"We can confirm there are survivors but we can't confirm numbers at this stage."

Three merchant vessels and two Australian military ships have reportedly been sent to the site but how long it will take them to reach the site is cause for concern. The P3 Orion fixed wing aircraft is already on the scene.

Authorities are determined to prevent a tragedy similar to other disasters in the same waters which have seen huge numbers of asylum seekers drown.

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