Refugee boat carrying 200 capsizes off Australia

Refugee boat carrying 200 capsizes off Australia

A Sri Lankan refugee boat with 200 people believed to be on board capsized off Australia’s remote Christmas Island on Thursday, with police saying scores of people may have died.

Late on Thursday, Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said 110 people had been rescued after the mid-afternoon accident in Indonesian waters, according to ABC television.

It is the latest in a series of refugee boat disasters in the Indian Ocean in recent years, as rickety, overloaded vessels packed with desperate migrants sink on their way to Australia.

The ship issued a distress call and capsized 120 nautical miles north of Christmas Island, some 2,600 kilometres from the Australian mainland, AMSA said, and 200 people were thought to be on board.

Western Australia police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said a “large number” were feared to have perished.

“Some of the very early reports suggest that up to 75 people may have drowned, but I do stress that they are unconfirmed at this stage,” O’Callaghan told reporters.

“We are very concerned for a large number of people who may have drowned,” he added.

“We know from what we’ve been hearing from the aircraft that there’s not 200 life jackets on board.”

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