Indonesia: 200 feared dead as migrant boat sinks

More than 200 people were feared dead after a heavily overloaded boat sank off Indonesia en route to Australia.

Updated: Dec 19, 2011, 00:01 AM IST

Watulimo: More than 200 people
were feared dead after a heavily overloaded boat packed mostly
with Afghan and Iranian asylum-seekers sank off Indonesia en
route to Australia, rescuers said on Sunday.

Australia`s government called the sinking "a terrible
tragedy", but came under pressure from campaign groups which
said its tough approach to refugees was partly responsible for
such disasters.

The fibreglass boat had a capacity of 100 but was
carrying about 250 people when it sank yesterday, 40 nautical
miles off eastern Java, in heavy rain and high waves,
Indonesian officials said.

Thirty-three survivors were plucked from the
shark-infested waters, officials said, after the vessel sank
along a well-worn -- and occasionally lethal -- route from
Java to Australia`s remote Christmas Island.

passengers alive, which would make the sinking Indonesia`s
deadliest migrant boat accident.

"We sent out five boats and three helicopters but no
survivor or body was sighted. It`s unlikely they were washed
up on islands as the closest shore is 40 miles away," district
search and rescue official Kelik Purwanto told news agency.

Purwanto said the accident was the "worst disaster
involving migrant boats" to date. "If we find no survivor,
then this is by far the largest loss of life," he added.

National Search and Rescue Agency spokesman Gagah Prakoso
earlier said "it`s very likely they have all drowned."
Bad weather, strong winds and waves of up to five metres
hampered rescue efforts today, with 300 rescuers including
navy and police officers deployed to comb the sea for bodies.

PTI