Rescuers were yesterday making a final search for survivors from a refugee boat accident off Australia’s Christmas Island, with two more bodies found and little hope for around 90 people still missing.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said overnight and morning searches of the sea north of remote Christmas Island had failed to find any more survivors, with the last living person found late on Thursday night.
Ships and aircraft would continue scouring the site until nightfall when “it is likely that [the search] will be suspended” an AMSA spokesman said.
Another two bodies had been recovered during yesterday’s searches, taking to five the number of confirmed dead, but the spokesman said a definite toll was not possible because there were no firm figures on how many had been on board.
“There are clearly many deceased people. We don’t know how many,” he said.
Customs has estimated the number of missing at “around 90.”
Rescuers managed to save 109 people from the stricken people-smuggling ship which capsized with about 200 people on board in the Indian Ocean on Thursday afternoon, two days after first issuing a distress call.
The boat is believed to have originated in Sri Lanka and to have been carrying mostly Afghan asylum-seekers. The survivors include a 13-year-old boy.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said earlier that the critical 36-hour search window had passed and conditions had steadily deteriorated, with the situation “looking grimmer by the hour.”
“There may still be people alive, but we’re passed that window,” Clare told ABC Television. “I’ve been on the phone to Border Protection Command. Their advice is that they’ve now instructed the men and women out in the search and rescue area to now identify people that have been perished and retrieve those bodies.”