July 25, 2013
Two men who survived the deadly capsizing of an asylum seeker boat between Indonesia and Christmas Island have described the horrors of the event.
There were 212 people packed on the boat when it filled with water, lost power and capsized on June 21 last year.
A total of 110 people were rescued but 102 others died, and West Australian coroner Alastair Hope is investigating the incident.
Two men, referred to only as KBA 10 and KBA 68 to protect their identities, addressed the inquest today through a Pashto interpreter.
Appearing via video link from Melbourne, KBA 10 said people were crammed on the deck of the overcrowded boat.
He said passengers had to urinate in a bottle because there was so little room to move, and many began to vomit over the side as the weather and waves worsened.
He said passengers became increasingly concerned, calling both Indonesian police and Australian rescue authorities for help.
“On the second night I could see there was no chance to survive. I called and said we are in a very bad condition and anything could happen to us at any time,” the man said.
“We prayed to God for any boat to help us and the majority of them wanted to go back. They know definitely we will die.”
We prayed to God for any boat to help us and the majority of [the asylum seekers] wanted to go back. They know definitely we will die.KBA 10
Breaking down in tears, KBA 10 said when the boat finally succumbed, it took just minutes to sink.
“In two minutes the boat is full of water. I saw myself in the water and realised all were dying,” he said.
“Some had no chance to wear the life jackets or even wake up.”
He said he could hear people crying “God” and “mother”, and has found it very hard to forget the accident.
KBA 68 described how increasingly large waves crashed into the boat for three days, while the vessel also sprung a leak.
In the early hours of June 21 the boat’s engine noise changed and within seconds was sinking.
KBA 68 spent 13 hours in the water before being rescued. Asked why the boat sank, the answer was brief.
“The boat was overloaded and the weather was bad,” he said.
AMSA says distress calls taken seriously
Yesterday at the inquest, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) rejected suggestions that it did not respond adequately to a distress call from the boat.
Under questioning, AMSA’s Alan Lloyd said the agency managed thousands of maritime incidents a year and had a 99.6 per cent success rate.
Asked to summarise what AMSA looked at when making an assessment on a distress call, Mr Lloyd said if he did that he would be revealing information which could be used by people smugglers to manipulate the system.
A report, prepared by a number of agencies including Australian Customs and Border Protection, has been tabled at the inquest and points to a number of actions AMSA could have taken.
The inquest continues.