June 09, 2013
At least 13 people are dead after an asylum seeker boat capsized near Christmas Island.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare says authorities are continuing to search for survivors 74 nautical miles west of the island.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Mr Clare said about 55 people were earlier seen on the deck of the vessel in waters off Western Australia’s north coast.
He said they were mostly adult men, but included a small number of women and children.
Mr Clare also revealed Australian Federal Police (AFP) had received a call for assistance from a second boat last night and HMAS Warramunga is en route to that vessel.
Asylum seeker boat sinking timeline (times in AEST)
- On Wednesday morning an Australian Air Force aircraft spotted the vessel 28 nautical miles north-west of Christmas Island. It identified about 55 people onboard, mostly men, but some women and children. No distress signal was received.
- HMAS Warramunga was sent to the location and arrived at 1:30am on Thursday morning, but did not find the vessel.
- The search continued along the approach corridor to Christmas Island throughout Thursday and Friday along with the help of aircraft.
- The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is called by Customs to help with the search. Two nearby merchant ships volunteer to join.
- The boat’s submerged hull was spotted at 3pm on Friday by an Air Force aircraft about 65 nautical miles north-west of Christmas Island.
- HMAS Warramunga arrived at the location at 5pm on Friday. The hull could not be located but debris including life jackets were found.
- An aircraft spotted a body in the water at 8:45pm on Friday, but Warramunga could not find the body.
- At 3pm on Saturday Customs planes spotted at least nine bodies.
- More bodies have since been spotted and the search continues.
The minister said 13 bodies from the first boat have been located, but they were yet to be recovered from the water.
“This is another terrible tragedy. Another terrible reminder how dangerous these journeys [are],” Mr Clare said.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank the men and women of Border Protection command for their bravery and for the dangerous work that they do.”
Authorities first spotted the boat on Wednesday, Mr Clare confirmed.
“The vessel was stationary but did not appear to be in distress. The advice to me is that Australian authorities did not receive a distress call from this vessel,” he said.
“HMAS Warramunga was tasked that evening to intercept the vessel.”
However, the Navy ship was unable to find the boat.
On Friday, a submerged hull was sighted in the water 65 nautical miles north-west of Christmas Island.
HMAS Warramunga arrived at the location later that afternoon.
Mr Clare said the crew were unable to find the hull, but they did find debris, including pieces of wood and a number of life jackets.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) are involved in the massive air and sea search.
Two merchant ships are also involved, along with two Border Protection planes and a private aircraft.
HMAS Warramunga has been retasked to search for a second boat approximately 110 nautical miles north of Christmas Island.
Mr Clare said that vessel has not yet been located.