A Lebanese asylum seeker described yesterday how she lost two children and her husband when their overcrowded boat sank in Indonesia, leaving at least 22 dead and scores still missing.
Nazime Bakour, 32, groaned in pain when asked how she felt about her loss, fighting back tears as her eight-year-old son, the only other survivor in her family, slept beside her in a medical center in southern Java.
“I happy he is alive. My husband and two [other] children dead. They three and seven [years old],” Bakour said, wearing an Islamic headscarf and a long green robe.
“I have to swim. My husband swim very well, but the boat break and hit his head,” she said, recalling the boat being struck by a massive wave and breaking into pieces.
She saw her surviving son in the water and managed to grab him, before they were rescued by fishermen.
Twenty-eight people were plucked to safety but around 70 — including many children — were unaccounted for after the boat carrying people from Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen went down off the main Indonesian island of Java, police said.
One Lebanese man escaped from the sinking boat by swimming to an island — but he believes his eight children and pregnant wife were killed, an official in Lebanon said.
The estimated 120 asylum seekers on board were at sea for five days, Bakour said, before their food and water supplies ran out and the two Indonesian crew admitted they were lost, deciding to turn back to Indonesia’s Java island, from where they left.
Bakour said she was from the north in Lebanon and feared “Syria will attack us,” pointing to two mosque bombings in August that left 45 dead.
“We leave Lebanon because not safe for my children. My husband said to me go to Christmas Island because save my children,” she said.
Indonesian rescuers resumed the search for survivors with a sole helicopter as strong waves kept search boats beached.
“The waves are just too high for our speed boats to go out yet. They’re four to six meters. We hope conditions improve soon,” said Warsono, a police official in Cianjur District on Java.
Of the asylum seekers 22 are confirmed dead and 28 have been found alive.
“It’s only been one day, so we are still hopeful we can find more survivors. But until now, the helicopter has not sighted anyone at sea,” said West Java Search and Rescue head Rochmali, who goes by one name.
He said 14 of the 22 bodies that had swept ashore were adults, contrary to earlier reports that the majority of the dead were children.
The sinking was the first deadly asylum boat accident since Tony Abbott became Australia’s prime minister earlier this month and days ahead of his first state visit to Indonesia, where his tough boatpeople deterrence policies are likely to be the focus of talks.
Survivors said they were trying to get to Australia’s Christmas Island, closer to Java than mainland Australia, and are the latest to cross the treacherous stretch of water that has claimed hundreds of asylum seekers’ lives in recent years.
Abbott vowed to “stop the boats” during his election campaign as the country seeks to combat an influx of asylum seekers by sea, a highly divisive political issue in Australia.
He plans a two-day visit tomorrow to Indonesia, where senior officials have been rankled by his boatpeople policies, which include towing vessels back from Australia’s waters to Indonesia’s.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread