Melbourne: At least 23 people were feared
dead after a boat carrying about 40 suspected asylum seekers
sank on Monday, 350 nautical miles north-west off of Australia in
the Indian Ocean, even as massive rescue operations have been
launched to search for possible survivors.
A giant LNG carrier is already at the scene and so far
17 people have been rescued from Indian Ocean, but it is
feared there were at least 40 suspected asylum seekers on
"All the efforts right now are legitimately dedicated
to attending to lives at risk at sea," Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd told reporters.
Earlier, AMSA spokeswoman Rhianne Robson said the crew
was still searching for survivors, but they held grave
concerns. "The LNG Pioneer is a large vessel and they are
trying their best with life rafts and their life boat to
recover those in the water," she was quoted as saying by ABC.
Australian Customs and Border Protection appears to
have taken control of the rescue effort. The boat sent out a
distress signal late last night and since then Australian
Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has been marshalling
resources at sea and in the air to find the survivors.
Medical director of RFDS in Western Australia, Stephen
Langford, said time is critical. "It`s a fairly urgent task
because there`s still people in the water and the weather is
not fantastic," he said.