Death toll rises to 11 in Indonesia boat capsize

Published July 25, 2013

| AFP

The confirmed death toll from the sinking of a boatload of Australia-bound asylum-seekers rose to 11 Thursday, as rescuers continued searching the seas off Indonesia for survivors.

Local police spokesman Achmad Suprijatna told AFP two more bodies were found Thursday morning, two days after the boat sank off the southwestern coast of Java.

"One was a 30-year-old Iranian, and the other a five-year-old Sri Lankan boy," he said, adding 189 had been saved.

Six children and a pregnant woman are now among the 11 dead, according to authorities.

The number on the overloaded boat was unclear. Police have said around 200 were aboard, but an asylum-seeker has said 250 people, mostly Sri Lankans, made the perilous journey.

Australian authorities alerted Indonesia of the incident Tuesday evening, just days after Canberra announced that asylum-seekers who arrive by boat will no longer be resettled in Australia even if they secure refugee status.

Chief of the rescue mission Rochmali, who goes by one name, said a helicopter had been deployed Thursday and merchant vessels sailing nearby were alerted to watch out for survivors.

"We don't know exactly how many people were on the boat, but hopefully there won't be anyone missing. We still need to continue the search operation," he said.

Police were questioning the asylum-seekers and had handed over to immigration officials 66 people -- 44 of whom were Sri Lankan and 22 Iranian, justice and human rights ministry immigration Hariyanto said.

The 66 were staying in hotels in Sukabumi city, while police questioned the others.

An AFP reporter who spoke to survivors Wednesday 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 Tuesday night.

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