28 Sep 2013

Dozens feared dead in asylum boat sinking

6:44 pm on 28 September 2013

Strong waves are preventing Indonesian rescuers from continuing the search for survivors after an asylum seekers' boat sank off the coast of Java.

At least 22 asylum seekers are dead and 30 are feared missing after the boat sank off Argabinta, a remote area of the coast off the Cianjur region of west Java.

A police official in the Cianjur district says 4 to 6 metre waves are just too high for their speed boats to go out in.

One Lebanese man escaped from the sinking boat by swimming to an island - but he believes his eight children and pregnant wife were killed.

He called people in his home village and told them that the boat sank at dawn, when waves destabilised the vessel.

Survivors said they were trying to get to Australia's Christmas Island.

The survivors have been taken to a local school for shelter but it is expected they will be moved to an immigration detention centre on Saturday.

The sinking comes amid a continuing diplomatic row over Australia's plans to turn back asylum boats, with Indonesia saying the policy is in breach of international law.

Meanwhile, Australia is trying to return a second group of asylum seekers to Indonesia after rescuing them at sea.