A boat carrying 200 asylum-seekers has capsized between Indonesia and Australia, spurring a massive search for survivors by both countries.
The Huffington Post reports that the boat capsized roughly 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Christmas Island, Australia, and about the same distance south of Indonesia. Australian Customer report that the boat was carrying “up to 200 people.”
Western Australia state Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan stated:
“There’s about 40 on the hull and the rest are in the water. Some of the very early reports suggest that up to 75 people may have drowned, but I do stress that they’re unconfirmed at this stage.”
Gagah Prasko, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency, has stated that two Indonesian warships were dispatched to the scene, but that “given the high waves and weather, I am not sure they could reach” the area today. Prasko also stated that the boat was carrying 206 people, but that they do not yet know their country of origin.
News.com.au reports that Karl O’Callaghan the Western Australian Police Commissioner, stated that about 40 people were spotted on the boat’s upturned hull and that others were in the water. Up to 75 others are feared dead. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has confirmed there are survivors, but cannot yet give numbers.
The AMSA Australian mission involves Defense aircraft, which are equipped with life rafts, a Customer maritime surveillance craft (one of which spotted the upturned boat around 3 p.m. Australian time), and two Armidale class patrol boates, teh HMAS Larrakia and Wollongong.
Australia’s Christmas Island is closer to Indonesia than the mainland, according to The Huffington Post, which makes it a popular target for a growing number of asylum seekers, who come from Iran, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. They attempt to reach Australia from Indonesia using overcrowded fishing boats. The last successful attempt was a boat that landed on Wednesday with 117 people aboard.