48 be­lieved dead in Aus­tralia refugee boat dis­as­ter

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

SYD­NEY: Aus­tralia on Mon­day called off the search for bod­ies from last week's hor­rific asy­lum-seeker ship­wreck, as the prime min­is­ter said about 48 peo­ple had died and warned the ex­act toll may never be known.

Prime Min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard said the "best es­ti­mate" was that around 90 peo­ple were on the wooden fish­ing boat which shat­tered on rocks at re­mote Christ­mas Is­land last Wed­nes­day in a storm, as help­less res­i­dents looked on.

Only 42 peo­ple were res­cued be­fore the search for sur­vivors was called off late Fri­day.

"We may never know the pre­cise num­ber but the ad­vice to me is that the best es­ti­mate at present is that there were around 90 peo­ple on the boat," Gil­lard told re­porters, quot­ing po­lice fig­ures.

"That does mean of course that we are still not able to ac­count for around 18 peo­ple."

Thirty bod­ies were re­trieved af­ter the ac­ci­dent, in­clud­ing a num­ber of ba­bies and chil­dren, be­fore the search was ter­mi­nated Mon­day on "ad­vice from ex­pe­ri­enced po­lice divers that no fur­ther bod­ies would be found," Cus­toms told AFP.

It is the worst dis­as­ter in­volv­ing an asy­lum-seeker boat bound for Aus­tralia since the sink­ing of the SIEV-X off In­done­sia in 2001, when all 353 on board died.

Gil­lard said it may never be known "ab­so­lutely, cer­tainly, how many peo­ple were on the boat," with au­thor­i­ties re­ly­ing on ac­counts of sur­vivors to try and es­tab­lish how many peo­ple are still missing and their iden­ti­ties.

She said the in­creased toll "is ob­vi­ously very very grim news and I am sure that Aus­tralians are to­day con­tin­u­ing to re­flect on this tragedy."

Sur­vivors say the ves­sel was packed with Ira­ni­ans, Iraqis and Kurds when it foundered on a rocky out­crop at Christ­mas Is­land, the site of Aus­tralia's main im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tre and some 2,600 kilo­me­tres from the main­land.

The grim task of iden­ti­fy­ing the vic­tims was un­der­way at the hos­pi­tal morgue Mon­day.

Po­lice have in­ter­viewed three In­done­sian crew­men res­cued af­ter the crash and ex­pect to lay charges, though they have de­clined to com­ment on whether these will in­clude man­slaugh­ter. -Ap

BER­LIN: A snow cov­ered air­craft is parked on the tar­mac at Ber­lin's Schoene­feld air­port in Ber­lin, Ger­many. -Ap

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.