Rescuers searched for more survivors off Indonesia’s Java island on Wednesday after an Australia-bound boat carrying asylum-seekers sank, leaving at least nine dead as 189 were saved.
Five children, including an 18-month-old baby, and a pregnant woman were among the nine confirmed dead, local police said.
West Java province police estimated around 200 people had been aboard the boat that began sinking on Tuesday evening, but a survivor said the number was closer to 250.
The boat left Indonesia for Autralia’s Christmas Island just days after Canberra announced a tough new policy — that asylum-seekers who arrive by boat will no longer be resettled in Australia, even if they are granted refugee status.
Instead, they could be resettled in poverty-stricken Papua New Guinea. Before the new policy announced on Friday, new arrivals were already being taken to PNG or Nauru for processing of their asylum claims.
An AFP reporter who spoke to survivors said a group of 38, including women and children, had swum for their lives in darkness for up to four hours in high seas to reach the shore on Tuesday night. Ragunada (30) from Sri Lanka said he and his children had used floats they found on the boat to help them swim to shore.
Others were plucked from the sea by fishermen and other rescuers.
“We have to do proper checks, but they say they’re from Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka,” said an official. .— AFP