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Scores rescued after boat sinks off Australia

At least 106 suspected asylum seekers recovered from water after boat capsized north of Christmas Island.

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013 06:59
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At least 106 people have been rescued after a boat carrying suspected asylum seekers sank off Australia, rescuers have said.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) had earlier on Tuesday reported a boat with approximately 105 people on board was in trouble.

It did not say if everyone had been accounted for, only that the rescue operation was continuing.

"As at 3:30pm local time (0530 GMT) HMAS Parramatta has reportedly recovered 106 people from the water," an AMSA spokeswoman said.

"Two people are reported to have minor injuries. Search and rescue operations continue", it said.

The boat sank about 220km north of Christmas Island, where Australia operates a detention camp for asylum seekers.

An Australian Navy ship was sent to the scene and reported that the boat had sunk, a report verified by rescue officials. A merchant ship and rescue plane were also on the scene, and another Navy ship and plane were headed to the area to help.

Christmas Island is about 500km south of Jakarta, Indonesia. It is a common destination for asylum seekers, who crowd into boats at Indonesian ports and pay smugglers to ferry them to Australian shores.

Australia is trying to discourage such risky journeys and announced last month that it would no longer accept asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Instead, it is evaluating their claims and resettling verified refugees in Papua New Guinea or Nauru.

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