Refugee boat disaster toll could soar
Posted on June 23, 2012, Saturday
SYDNEY: Fears grew yesterday that the death toll from a refugee boat disaster off Australia’s Christmas Island could soar, as ships and aircraft scouring the seas for the dozens missing found only more bodies.
So far 109 people have been rescued, a figure authorities revised down from 110, and three are confirmed dead after the vessel which was believed to be carrying around 200 asylum-seekers capsized in the Indian Ocean.
But with more than 80 people unaccounted for, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said the prospect of finding anyone else alive was looking ‘increasingly grim’.
“A surveillance plane has seen more debris and lifejackets in the water. Some are floating on their own, some of them that have people wearing them, and they have identified more bodies in the water,” he told Sky News.
“Unfortunately, I can’t report that any more survivors were seen alive in the water at this time.
“We need to brace ourselves for more bad news. Potentially, many more people have lost their lives,” he added.
The survivors — all adult men except for one 13-year-old boy — were taken by ship to Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory near Indonesia’s Java where they were given medical checks.
Clare said one person was in a critical condition.
Earlier reports said the ship was en route from Sri Lanka, although the minister told Australian radio there appeared to be mostly Afghans on board.
The ship issued a distress call and capsized 120 nautical miles north of Christmas Island, 2,600 kilometres from the Australian mainland on Thursday afternoon. — AFP