Sydney: Twelve people were feared dead Tuesday more than 24 hours after an unidentified boat sank in rough seas far off Australia`s northwest an official said.
One body had been recovered and 11 people were still missing in the remote spot 2,700 kilometres from Australia`s mainland, a customs spokeswoman told reports. Some 27 survivors had been picked up by a passing tanker.
Authorities have not confirmed whether the 39 people on the stricken boat, which went down overnight on Sunday, were bidding to join the more than 1,700 asylum-seekers who have made the perilous voyage to Australia this year.
"Obviously, considering the amount of time they`ve been in the water, there are concerns for their safety. But we`ll keep looking," the customs official said of the missing.
Choppy seas continued to hamper the search by the Bahamas-registered LNG Pioneer, which diverted to the scene after a plea by Australian authorities and has now been joined
by a Japanese fishing boat.
Eight Australian aircraft were sent to comb the area including a Dornier plane fitted with night vision equipment which hunted overnight.
However, an Australian rescue ship was still more than a day`s sail away from the far-flung site off the Cocos Islands, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.