September 27, 2013
As many as 50 people are feared dead after a boat loaded with asylum seekers sank off the south coast of west Java.
Indonesian rescue authorities, speaking on the basis of information provided by local police, say 22 bodies and 25 survivors have been found.
As many as 30 are still feared missing and without the capability to search at night, or in big seas, there was little hope of them being found before day break.
Rescue operations were then hindered this morning due to big seas.
The boat sank in big waves off Argabinta, a remote area of coast off the Cianjur region of west Java.
The survivors were taken to a local Islamic school, or pesantren, for shelter but it is expected they will be moved to an immigration detention facility today.
The dead bodies were to be taken to a local health centre but it is too small to house them.
The tragedy comes as a diplomatic row continues to simmer over Australia’s plans to turn back asylum boats.
Meanwhile, Australian authorities are set to return a second group of asylum seekers to Indonesia today after rescuing them at sea.
The Australian Customs ship, ACV Triton, had been given permission to enter Indonesian waters to offload 31 rescued asylum seekers.
It will be the second time in two days that Australian rescue authorities have returned asylum seekers to Indonesia.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) told its Indonesian equivalent Basarnas the “preference is for a transfer at sea” to Indonesian authorities.