Two dead after asylum seeker boat capsizes

March 25, 2013

Asylum seekers

The injured have been taken to hospital, while the others will undergo health and security checks. AAP: Sharon Tisdale

Two asylum seekers have drowned and another two are critically injured after their boat capsized in waters off Christmas Island.

The fishing boat was carrying 95 people when it overturned 15 nautical miles (27.7 kilometres) north of the island this morning.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare says 93 people were rescued by a Customs vessel and he believes no-one is missing.

He says a young boy aged around four or five died along with a woman in her 30s.

Mr Clare says those injured are a child aged around six or seven and a pregnant woman in her 20s.

“[They are having] breathing difficulties from ingesting water and potentially some diesel that was on the surface of the water,” he told a press conference.

Mr Clare says border control vessel Ocean Protector had been tracking the boat since late last night after authorities received a distress call from someone on board.

He says Ocean Protector saw the boat around 3am (AEDT) today but it did not appear to be in distress.

Two Customs officials boarded the boat just before it overturned around 10am.

“The vessel stopped, and that allowed the Border Protection officers to… embark on the vessel,” Mr Clare said.

“At that time two waves hit the boat. That caused the boat to roll over on its side and a number of individuals went into the water.”

The Ocean Protector transferred those rescued to Christmas Island.

The injured have been taken to hospital while the others will undergo health, security and identity checks.

Nationalities unknown

Rear Admiral David Johnston says the nationalities of those on board are not yet known, but initial indications suggest they are from Afghanistan.

“There are men and women and some juveniles within the 95,” he said.

“The numbers are still being confirmed but there are around 17 juveniles.”

He says three Indonesians were among the 95 people on board.

“Whether they are crew or not is yet to be determined,” he said.

Christmas Island Administrator Jon Stanhope said it was fortunate Customs officials had already detected the boat before it capsized.

“The Ocean Protector was approaching the scene at the time the boat capsized,” he said.

“I think it’s a very fortunate coincidence that Customs were within the vicinity and were able to respond very quickly.”

Local police will investigate the cause of the capsize and present their report to the coroner.

Customs officials involved in the rescue efforts will be provided with counselling services.

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Filed under Boat Intercepted, Boat Tragedy

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