Boat carrying 200 sinks off Australia

Channels Television  
Updated June 21, 2012

A boat carrying around 200 people has capsized in Indonesian waters 120 nautical miles (220 km) north of Australia’s Christmas Island, the Australia Maritime Safety Authority said on Thursday.

An Australian defence force aircraft had spotted survivors in the water.

Refugees seeking asylum in Australia often set sail from Indonesia heading for Christmas Island in dangerous and overcrowded boats.

The Australia Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said survivors had been spotted in the water.

Three merchant vessels and two Australian patrol boats were being sent to the area to assist with rescue efforts, AMSA said.

Christmas Island lies off Australia’s north-west coast. It is the closer to Indonesia than Australia, and is targeted by asylum-seekers hoping to get to Australia.

These boats are often over-loaded and poorly maintained. About 50 asylum-seekers died when their boat broke up on rocks off Christmas Island in December 2010.

AMSA said the ship issued a distress call earlier in the day.

“The Indonesian search and rescue authorities are coordinating the response,” an official from the AMSA was quoted by news agency Agence-France Presse as saying.

“We can confirm there are survivors but we can’t confirm numbers at this stage.”