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Australia Asylum Boat Sinks, Killing 27

SYDNEY (AP) — A wooden boat full of asylum seekers smashed towards jagged rocks in a storm off an Australian island Wednesday, flinging terrified occupants into churning waters and killing no less than 27 people. (Scroll down for video.)

Christmas Island residents on a cliff above watched in horror as the boat – carrying about 70 individuals – broke apart with a crack, dumping screaming males, women and kids into monstrous waves that pounded them against the rocks.

“It was just horrible. Folks getting crushed. Our bodies, lifeless youngsters, the entire thing was pretty terrible,” island resident Simon Prince informed The Associated Press.

Officials gave no instant word on the nationality of the victims. The Customs and Border Safety Service said in an announcement Wednesday that 27 bodies had been recovered from the water. Forty-one survivors were plucked from the seas, and one stone island supima hooded jacket person made it to shore.

“The rescue is being carried out in extraordinarily tough and dangerous conditions,” the customs division mentioned. “The search and rescue situation is ongoing.”

Ladies and youngsters had been among the dead, Western Australia state Premier Colin Barnett mentioned in a press release.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service despatched docs to the island to deal with 30 injured victims, said Joeley Pettit-Scott, the group’s spokeswoman. Three patients had been critically injured, two men with head injuries and one girl with blunt abdominal trauma, she mentioned.

Appearing Prime Minister Wayne Swan stated the vessel was a people smuggler’s boat, however it was not clear where the passengers had been from.

Christmas Island is a distant Australian territory closer to Indonesia than the Australian mainland and a frequent target of refugee hopefuls, who’re housed in a detention center there. Australia is a chief vacation spot for folks from poor, often war-ravaged international locations such as Afghanistan who need to start out a new life.

“This incident is a tragic reminder of the hazard confronted by people fleeing persecution and human rights violations in their home international locations, and the desperate measures they will resort to in search of security,” mentioned Richard Towle, the United Nations Refugee Agency’s regional representative.

Photographs and movies taken by witnesses on the scene present the wooden boat crashing into the rocks and breaking apart. The photographs additionally show folks floating in the water amid the wreckage. It is unclear if they are alive or lifeless. The boat was about 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) lengthy, with a cabin coated by a sheet of fabric or plastic.

Prince, who lives next to the cliff the place the boat crashed, said he was woken early Wednesday by what he thought had been cheers. He walked to the cliff and as an alternative heard cries for help from a ship simply offshore.

“The engine had failed,” Prince informed the AP. “They were washing backward and ahead very near the cliffs here, that are jagged limestone cliffs, very nasty.”

Prince known as the police and shortly there have been dozens of locals standing on the cliff, wondering how they may assist regardless of the storm and crashing waves. He stated the boat tossed for an hour before it lastly hit the rocks at the base of the cliff.

“When the boat hit the cliff there was a sickening crack. All the folks on board rushed to the land aspect, which is the worst factor they may do, but I don’t suppose anybody might swim,” he mentioned.

Resident Michael Foster watched in horror as girls and children screamed out for help within the churning seas under. “They’d lifejackets on them, however the water was simply pushing them up … and throwing them in direction of the rocks,” Foster mentioned. “It was a fairly horrible situation.”

In recent times, many asylum seekers have come from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Myanmar. Generally, they first fly to Indonesia and then proceed on to Australia in cramped, barely seaworthy boats.

According the U.N. refugee agency, an estimated 848 folks died or went lacking in 2009 in Italy, Yemen, Spain, and Greece – the primary areas worldwide of giant-scale migration.

“Climbing over razor wire fences, taking to sea in leaking boats or stowing away in airless containers, refugees and migrants all over the world threat their lives day-after-day in desperate attempts to find security or a better life,” the UNHCR says on its web site.

International Group for Migration spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said asylum seekers pay $6,000-$7,000 to folks smugglers, solely to be advised to pay another $1,000-$1,500 for the last stretch from Indonesia to Australia.

“Indonesia has been a stepping stone for financial migrants … Many develop into stranded in Indonesia after they run out of money, are cheated by individuals smugglers, or are intercepted by the Indonesian authorities,” stated Chauzy.

Smith reported from Adelaide, Australia. Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.

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