Seven kids among dead in Australia boat capsize (Lead)

December 16th, 2010 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Dec 16 (IANS) Seven children - including four babies - were among the dead after a boat carrying about 70 Asian asylum seekers crashed into the rocks Wednesday at Christmas Island off Australia, killing 28 people.Customs and Border Protection officials said of the 28 bodies recovered so far, three were infant females, one an infant male, two were boys and one was a girl.

Of the adult bodies recovered, 12 were men and nine women, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Thursday.

The officials said 42 people survived the disaster - of which 25 were men, eight women and nine were children.

Kamar Ismail, councillor of Christmas Island, said Wednesday the asylum seekers appeared to be mostly of Middle Eastern origin.

A doctor who had been briefed by the immigration department confirmed that most of the survivors were of Iraqi and Iranian nationality.

The search and rescue operation was continuing Thursday in “extremely difficult and dangerous conditions”, they said.

Among those involved in the operation are 100 Customs and Border Protection and Australian Defence Force staff and 45 officers from the Australian Federal Police.

Western Australian Police Thursday said they had received three desperate emergency calls from the asylum-seeker boat shortly before it slammed into the rocks.

The calls were in broken English, Assistant Commissioner Chris Dawson said, but would not reveal any details of the calls.

Meanwhile, two women survivors of the boat accident, in serious condition, have been flown to a Perth hospital.

“We brought the most serious two patients back. One lady with abdominal injuries, and one lady with lung injuries probably from inhaling sea water and a bit of diesel,” said doctor David McIlroy.

In recent months, more than three boats a week have been arriving at Christmas Island.

They are loaded with mostly Middle Eastern asylum seekers who have paid people smugglers for their passage across from Indonesia’s Java Island in rickety fishing vessels.

More than 2,000 asylum seekers are in the Christmas Island immigration detention centre and 3,000 more are held on the Australian mainland.

Christmas Island, which has a permanent population of 1,400 people, is 360 km south of Java and 2,600 km northwest of Perth.

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