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MORE THAN 200 MISSING AS SHIP SINKS OFF INDONESIA

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JAKARTA, Indonesia - Rescuers battled high waves on Sunday as they searched for 200 asylum seekers still missing after their wooden ship sank off Indonesia's main island of Java. So far only 33 people have been plucked alive from the choppy waters alive.
Survivors told authorities they had been trying to reach Australia, said Lt. Alwi Mudzakir, a maritime police official who was heading rescue operations.
  • He blamed Saturday's accident on overloading, saying the vessel - packed with 250 men, women and children from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Turkey - appeared to have been carrying more than twice its capacity.
  • When the boat became unsteady off Java's coast, people started panicking, causing it two sway violently back and forth, until finally it capsized.
  • Indonesia, a sprawling archipelagic nation of 240 million people, has more than 18,000 islands and thousands of kilometres of unpatrolled coastline, making it a key transit point for smuggling migrants.
  • Those on the ship that sank Saturday had passed through the capital, Jakarta, three days earlier without any legal immigration documents, according to police.
  • An unidentified group loaded them onto four buses and brought them to a port, promising to get them to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.
  • One of the survivors, Esmat Adine, told the official news agency Antara that when the ship started to rock, triggering the panic, people were so tightly packed they had nowhere to go.
  • "That made the boat even more unstable, and eventually it sank," said the 24-year-old Afghan migrant, adding that he and others survived by clinging to parts of the broken vessel until they were picked up by local fishermen.
  • He estimated that more than 40 children were on the ship. Mudzakir said that two children and a woman were among the 33 who had been rescued.
The police official was giving up hope of finding more survivors, saying weather was bad and four fishing boats and a navy war ship involved in the operation were battling 4-meter-high waves.
"We fear that a large number of victims will not be rescued," he said. Last month, a ship carrying about 70 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan capsized off the southern coast of Central Java province, and at least eight people died.
Source: Agency
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