Scores are feared dead as rescuers race to save 200 asylum seekers who were on a boat that capsized en route to Australia.
Indonesian authorities were leading the rescue effort for the boat that went down in their jurisdiction about 200km north of Christmas Island.
The stricken vessel was spotted by an Australian Customs and Border Protection surveillance plane about 5pm (NZ time).
“It is believed up to 200 people could be on board, although this detail has not yet been confirmed,” Customs said in a statement.
West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said about 40 people were spotted on the upturned hull, others were in the water and up to 75 others may be dead.
“We have grave fears for the remainder,” he told reporters.
What an awful way to die, drowning in the Indian Ocean scores of miles from land.
In December 2010, more than 50 asylum seekers, including women and children, died when a boat known as SIEV 221 crashed into rocks off Christmas Island.
The disaster was the largest loss of life in Australian waters in peacetime in 115 years.
And as many as 200 people drowned last December when an overloaded boat sank off the coast of East Java on its way to Australia.
Only 49 people survived the tragedy, which occurred in rough monsoonal seas on December 17.
So far this year, 57 boats carrying a total of 4006 passengers and 82 crew have arrived in Australia.
For the month of June, there have been 18 boats carrying a total of 1108 people.
The latest arrived arrived on Thursday and had 117 people on board.
I wonder how many were genuine refugees who gained asylum.