June 08, 2013
Nine asylum seekers have drowned after a boat believed to be carrying up to 70 people sunk off Christmas Island.
Authorities will spend the night searching the ocean for survivors after a plane spotted nine bodies in the water on Saturday afternoon.
The vessel HMAS Warramunga has confirmed the sighting.
An airforce plane had spotted a submerged hull late on Friday during a search for an asylum seeker boat which had been seen approaching Christmas Island.
Three aircraft, the HMAS Warramunga and two merchant vessels are searching the ocean for survivors.
A Customs and Border Protection statement said the focus was on finding survivors and would continue into the night.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare will travel to Canberra for a personal briefing from Border Protection command on the operation, the statement said.
It is the second asylum seeker fatality in the area this year.
In March, a young boy and a woman died after a boat carrying 95 people capsized near Christmas Island.
Last June, 17 bodies were recovered and 85 people were reported missing, presumed dead after a boat carrying more than 200 people sank northwest of Christmas Island.
The fatalities follow the deaths of 50 asylum seekers who were killed when their boat smashed into rocks near on Christmas Island after the boat’s engine failed.
The boats mostly originate from Indonesia with asylum seekers, many from Afghanistan and Iran, paying people smugglers for the perilous voyage on often over-crowded vessels.
© 2013 AAP