People-smuggling boat carrying 97 immigrants including Sri Lankans topple in Australian waters.

Saturday, 13 July 2013 - 12:52


Australian authorities were scouring remote seas for survivors today after a people-smuggling boat carrying 97 went down, with 88 people rescued so far and the body of a baby found.


Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said the boat first issued a distress call in rough seas north of Christmas Island, between Australia and Indonesia, yesterday morning.


Two navy patrol boats and a merchant vessel were combing the seas 87 nautical miles north of Christmas Island, along with a military aircraft and two maritime rescue planes.


The ill-fated ship was believed to have originated in Indonesia with passengers from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.


Clare said the 88 plucked from the sea overnight had been transferred to immigration detention on the remote island, Australia's main facility for holding asylum-seekers arriving by boat.


It is the second asylum boat incident on the dangerous people-smuggling sea passage from Java in a week -- a vessel issued a distress signal last Friday after taking on water but was ultimately able to fix its engine.