Boat sinks off Indonesia, 217 missing

Updated: 2011-12-18 10:39


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JAKARTA - A boat carrying 250 immigrants from Middle East heading to Australia sank off Trenggalek district of East Java in Indonesia on Saturday, leaving 217 people missing, rescuers at the scene said on Sunday.

The boat was hit by heavy waves that its body was broken, Brian Gautama, a rescuer from East Java Search and Rescue Office told Xinhua by phone from the TPI Triprigi beach of the district.

As many as 33 out of the 250 people had been secured by local sailors, he said.

"Two of the survivors are being treated at a nearby hospital and a health clinic. But, so far there are no any bodies found," the rescuer said.

Another rescuer, Kelik Enggar Purwanto, also confirmed "None of the 33 people rescued is dead, all are alive," he told Xinhua by phone.

Search and rescue operation for those missing was underway, involving those from Search and Rescue Office in East Java, military, police and sailors, said Gautama.

The ship sank at about 40 knoctical miles from TPI Prigi beach of Trenggalek district at about 9:00 am Jakarta time (0200 GMT) Saturday and victims were first found by sailors at about 15:00 pm Jakarta time (0800 GMT), he said.

Gautama quoting some of the survivors as saying that the immigrants flying from Dubai to Jakarta, then an Indonesian citizen arranged their journey to Australia.

"According to survivors, they were heading to Christmas island of Australia," he said.

The boat was carrying immigrants from Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq, said Gautama.

Indonesia has been a favorable transit point for illegal immigrants from the Middle East to Australia.

But, they have frequently met sea accidents as they pass ocean with huge waves that have often hit their small boats lacking safety standard, causing fatalities.

Indonesia has set up a cooperation with Australia to address the illegal immigrants.