A boat carrying as many as 200 asylum-seekers capsized near the Australian territory of Christmas Island in Indonesian waters, with fears of another tragedy.
A spokesperson with the Indonesian search and rescue team told The Australian, “Australia has asked for clearance to enter Indonesian waters for surveillance flights of P3 Orions,” a type of aircraft used for maritime patrol.
The boat capsized around 129 nautical miles from Christmas Island and 126 miles from Pelabuhan Ratu, located on West Java, according to the spokesperson.
West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said that around 75 people may have drowned, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “Of course we can’t confirm that they have died but it’s likely,” he said.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said that around 110 people were rescued during the night.
However, finding the rest of the passengers will be a challenge.
“The weather is not friendly in Indian Ocean, the waves are quite big, five to six meters (16 -- 20 feet), sometimes they reach 12 meters and [it] keeps changing,” a spokesperson with Indonesia’s national search team told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.“We need a big ship, tough vessel. This is why we need the navy to get to the location,” the spokesperson added.
The boat appears to have been first spotted by chance, by a plane flying overhead.
Jo Meehan, of the Australian Maritime Safety Association, told ABC: “There was a customs vessel flying overhead and noticed a vessel overturned.”