27 die as refugee boat hits rocks
At least 27 asylum seekers, including women and children, died yesterday when their boat smashed into cliffs on a remote Australian island.
With rescue efforts still continuing on the remote territory of Christmas Island last night, 41 people had been plucked from the water and one had clambered to shore. Several survivors had been taken to hospital and three were in a critical condition.
The incident will revive the simmering debate in Australia over problems with asylum seekers and border protection.
The wooden boat, believed to be carrying about 70 asylum seekers from Iraq and Iran, arrived at Christmas Island in treacherous seas. Locals, woken at 6am by screams, rushed to the cliffs, where they were confronted by desperate scenes. The 130ft boat, which had lost power, was drifting close to the jagged rocks in the rolling surf. Women and children were clinging to the sides of the vessel.
As the islanders looked on, a huge wave smashed the boat on to the jagged rocks. The vessel disintegrated, sending its passengers and timbers flying into the water.
Navy boats attempted a rescue using two inflatable dinghies. But the rough conditions, brought on by a cyclone in the Indian Ocean to the north, hampered the rescue effort and dozens of people, including women, children and babies, drowned or were dashed against the rocks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
A boat laden with refugees is driven onto rocks at Christmas Island in these still images taken from video yesterday. Twenty-seven asylum seekers have died and dozens may be missing after heavy waves smashed their timber boat onto rocks.