Hopes fade for more survivors from Indonesia asylum boat
SYDNEY – The search was to resume on Friday for more survivors from an asylum-seeker boat that disappeared off the Indonesian coast, but hopes were rapidly fading with a crucial rescue window closing.
So far 54 people, revised down by authorities from 55, have been plucked to safety from the ocean since the Australia-bound boat sent a distress signal on Wednesday morning, with nearly 100 people still missing.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the survivors were to be transferred to Indonesian rescue boats early Friday from the merchant ships and an Australian naval vessel that picked them up.
"All survivors, including three with injuries, will be taken to Merak, Indonesia for medical attention," AMSA said, adding that a search operation by three merchant ships and two Australian aircraft would continue.
But hopes were fading of finding anyone else alive after two days in the water. Reports in Australia said many of those picked up were Afghans.
"We have a window of opportunity – people can survive in the sea for up to 36, maybe 48 hours," Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare told reporters.
The wooden asylum-seeker boat was about eight nautical miles from Java when it issued a distress call in the early hours of Wednesday.
By the time the first people were rescued, they had been in the water for almost 24 hours and had drifted to a point some 40 nautical miles off the Javanese coast. -- afp