Tue, Dec 20, 2011 - Page 1 News List

People found alive after Java migrant boat disaster

AFP, WATULIMO, INDONESIA

Indonesian rescuers found 15 people alive yesterday 100km from where a boat capsized, raising hopes of more survivors among 200 missing asylum seekers who were en route to Australia.

Thirteen of the survivors found on a dinghy 100km from the capsize are receiving medical treatment in a temporary shelter on the outskirts of the city of Jember in eastern Java and most cannot walk, a correspondent said.

Two Indonesian men were found on Sendang Biru beach near eastern Java’s Malang city and are suspected to be crewmembers who abandoned the sinking ship.

“But we cannot confirm that just yet,” East Java provincial Disaster Management Agency chief Siswanto said

The fiberglass vessel had a capacity of 100 people, but was carrying about 250 migrants — mostly Afghans and Iranians — when it sank on Saturday, 40 nautical miles (74.1km) off eastern Java.

Fishermen plucked 34 survivors from shark-infested waters six hours after the boat capsized and were taken to the city of Blitar on Sunday for identification by the International Organization for Migration, officials said.

Survivors interviewed said they were heading to Australia’s remote Christmas Island when their boat was hit by a storm and capsized.

Crewmembers and migrants had wrestled over 25 life vests on the doomed boat, officials said.

“The migrants said the six crewmembers had rushed for the life vests, put them on themselves and swam off,” East Java search and rescue agency chief Sutrisno said.

The Australian newspaper said an associate of Afghan human-trafficking kingpin Sayed Abbas was believed to be responsible for sending the latest boat on its ill-fated journey.

It reported that Indonesian authorities were investigating Haji Ismail, also known as Sayed Azad or Sayed Jalal, as a prime suspect after his name was supplied to investigators by survivors.

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