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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Asylum boat sinked

50 peoples perished on Australia's tiny Christmas Island.

About 50 people are believed to have perished on Australia's tiny Christmas Island. Authorities believe the asylum-seekers were from Iraq and Iran.

Up to 80 asylum seekers including women and children were onboard a wooden Indonesian fishing boat when it crashed near Flying Fish Cove this morning.

Customs says 41 survivors have been rescued from the water, while one person made it to shore.

It says it will search for survivors until last light tonight and will then decide whether to continue efforts overnight.

The asylum seekers are believed to be from Iran and Iraq.

Earlier the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) said it feared up to 50 asylum seekers had died.

Stephen Langford from the RFDS says three survivors have serious injuries, while about 30 others have moderate injuries.

He says a RFDS plane is on its way to the island to stabilise the three critically injured patients and fly them to a Perth hospital.

"The general information we have is there's around 30 victims with moderate injuries that the hospital should be able to care for," he said.

"So far we know there are three patients - two with head injuries, one with some blunt abdominal trauma," Mr Langford said.

"I understand in the rough seas crashing up against the rocks, it was like a whirlpool or washing machine, and people were injured that way."

Mr Langford says it is hoped the plane will arrive tonight, but the rough conditions may make it difficult to land.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is returning from leave after receiving briefings on the crash.

Ms Gillard has released a statement saying it will be some time before full details emerge.

"The Government's focus and absolute priority now is on rescue, recovery and treatment of those injured," she said.

Christmas Island residents rushed to the cliffs when they heard screams from offshore and threw life jackets and ropes into the water.

But they were forced to watch helplessly as bodies and wreckage were washed onto rocks.

Both the Navy and Customs have vessels involved in the ongoing rescue and recovery operation.

Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan was able to give only limited details at a press conference this afternoon.

"A number of people have been rescued but sadly some bodies have been retrieved," he said.

"It is very difficult weather, very difficult conditions."

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