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Asylum-seeker boat capsizes off Australia

At least two people dead and many hurt after boat overturns off Christmas Island, according to local media.

Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 18:52
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At least two people have died after a boat carrying 95, mostly asylum-seekers, reportedly capsized off the Australian territory of Christmas Island, local media reported

Radio Australia said on Monday that efforts were underway to rescue the crew and passengers of the boat.

A spokesman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority told the AFP news agency that some people were sent to a hospital in the island after sustaining injuries from the accident.

"All the people have been accounted for, and there are a number who have needed medical attention," the spokesman said.

Jon Stanhope, the Christmas Island administrator, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that at least two were dead.

"My advice is that regrettably two asylum-seekers have drowned and I also have advice that two other asylum-seekers are seriously unwell, are critically unwell," he said.

Stanhope added that the customs vessel happened to be close to the boat at the time and was able to respond quickly.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare confirmed that an Australian border protection vessel had come alongside the boat when two large waves struck. He is uncertain whether the boat capsized, but says it did roll and took water.

Australia is facing a steady influx of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, many of whom use Indonesia as a transit hub, paying people-smugglers for passage on leaky wooden vessels after fleeing their home countries.

Hundreds have died making the treacherous journey over the past few years. 

Earlier this month, a naval vessel rescued 77 asylum-seekers to safety after their boat broke up on the way to Australia.

The survivors were taken to an immigration detention camp on Christmas island.

The injured were taken to the Australian city, Perth.

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