September 29, 2013
About 50 people are either missing or dead, 30 of them understood to be children, after the boat sank off Agrabinta, a remote area of the coast off the Cianjur region of west Java, after it got into trouble on Thursday.
Survivors say they rang Australian authorities for help on Thursday when both the boat’s engines broke during the voyage.
They say they tried to fix the engines but failed.
Eventually, the motor pumping water off the boat ran out of petrol and the boat started taking on water, asylum seekers say.
We called the Australian Government for 24 hours, they were telling us ‘we’re coming, we’re coming, we’re coming,’ and they didn’t come.Shipwreck survivor
They then hit rough seas and capsized only 50 metres from the shore.
At least 28 asylum seekers have been found alive, but local authorities fear about 80 people were on the boat.
Survivor Abdullah Al Qisi says that as the boat broke up, only those who could swim made it to the shore alive.
After the sinking the beach was littered with broken pieces of the boat and the bodies of about 21 people, including many children.
One survivor told ABC News he had lost his whole family because Australian rescuers did not come when they phoned a day before the sinking.
“We called the Australian Government for 24 hours, they were telling us ‘we’re coming, we’re coming, we’re coming,’ and they didn’t come,” he said.
“We sent them the position on the GPS, exactly where are we, and we drowned and nobody came.
“This is because of the Australian Government. I want them to know that.”
Search operations were hindered because Indonesian rescue authorities do not have the capability to search during the night or in big seas.
Continuing large ocean swells meant rescue efforts were again delayed on Saturday.
The search is expected to begin properly today.
Mother and seven children among dead
Lebanese community leaders in Melbourne say a mother and her seven children are among those who drowned in the sinking.
Community leader Milad Bardan said about 40 Lebanese asylum seekers drowned or are missing, including Kawthar Taleb and her seven children.
Ms Taleb’s husband, Hussein Ahmad Khoder, swam to safety. Her sister, Raya, and her husband and three children also died.
Mr Bardan said the 40 victims are all from the same area in Lebanon’s north, where people-smugglers are targeting locals looking to flee the violence spilling over the border from Syria.
“Unless Syria settles down, more will come, definitely,” he said.
He said more asylum seekers from northern Lebanon are already en route to Australia, having paid people-smugglers about $20,000 each, and that the community is worried that more could perish at sea.
Relatives of those drowned and missing are gathering in Melbourne today to mourn.