JAKARTA — More than 100 people are missing after a boat said to be carrying 150 asylum seekers sank off the coast of Indonesia on Wednesday. This distress call may result in the one of highest death tolls in related incidents this year.
Australian authorities say the asylum-seeker boat issued a distress call in Indonesian waters - about 350 kilometers from Australia’s Christmas Island.
Initially responding to the call, Indonesian authorities abandoned the search before nightfall after failing to locate any sign of the boat or its passengers.
Six survivors were pulled from the water when the search resumed Thursday morning, and 31 more were reported rescued before dusk.
Indonesia’s search and rescue agency spokesperson Gagag Prakoso says efforts to locate the remaining passengers continue.
Prakoso says the agency and Indonesian Navy have deployed two helicopters and three boats to scour the location for any remaining survivors.
He says the six survivors this morning were picked by the cargo ship APL Bahrain this morning, and are headed to Jakarta where they will be questioned and identified.
Thousands of asylum seekers make the dangerous journey by boat to Australia every year and this year, more than 300 people have died along way.
To stem the asylum seeker influx, Australia reintroduced offshore processing in Naurau and Papua New Guinea two weeks ago, but the policy has had little impact.
Hundreds have boarded rickety wooden boats en route to Australia since the policy was introduced.