More feared dead in Indonesia ship sinking

Eight dead and up to 20 missing after boat carrying migrants from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan sank off Java's coast.

    An unidentified survivor of Tuesday's sinking carries a child after being brought ashore in Pangandaran town [AFP]

    Up to 20 more people are feared dead after an overcrowded wooden ship apparently carrying Australia-bound migrants sank off the coast of Java, according to Australia's immigration minister.

    About 70 people were aboard the boat which left the southern Indonesian port of Cilacap early on Tuesday, local police say, and eight have so far been confirmed dead. The toll rose after the body of a 9-year-old Iranian boy was recovered on Wednesday.

    "There are around 20 missing and tragically I think we need to brace ourselves that many, if not most or all of those people, will not be rescued alive," Chris Bowen said on Wednesday.

    The bodies of seven people including two young boys and three women had been recovered, police said, adding that more were still inside the capsized vessel.

    "The dead have been identified as being from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The ones that survived are mostly from Iran," the chief said.

    "We have found the location of where the ship capsized. But we haven't turned it. We think there are more dead bodies inside."

    Migrant swap cancelled

    Last month, Australia's government abandoned a migrant swap deal , the so-called 'Malaysia arrangement', with the Malaysian government because of a parliamentary impasse.

    But Bowen said the government remained of the view that the best way to prevent asylum seeker deaths at sea was the now defunct swap agreement.

    "All the expert advice to us is that the Malaysia arrangement would break the people smugglers' business model," said Bowen.

    Brendan O'Connor, Australia's home affairs minister, was of the same opinion.

    "This is a tragedy, something that the government foretold," he said. "We said that if we don't put in place the most effective deterrent, we would see an incline in the incidence of irregular maritime arrivals and we will most likely see an incline in maritime fatalities."

    Another boat, carrying 92 asylum seekers and two crew, was intercepted off the Australian coast on Tuesday.

    It was the sixth to arrive since the federal government's deal with Malaysia failed to pass parliament.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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