A horrific story from Australia’s Christmas Island where a boat carrying asylum-seekers believed to be from Iraq and Iran broke up in rough after striking rocks offshore. Forty two people were been rescued and twenty seven have been confirmed dead, though that number may rise. Some reports suggest that as many as fifty people may have died.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times:
Shortly after dawn Wednesday, residents of an isolated Australian island community heard the screams of children just offshore.
One by one, the inhabitants of tiny Christmas Island ran to the water’s edge to find scores of asylum-seekers — their wooden boat dashed against razor-sharp rocks — being tossed about by seas one onlooker likened to “an open washing machine.”
Late Wednesday, officials were still searching for survivors and tallying the mounting deaths. An estimated 50 people were presumed dead with 40 others rescued from a boat thought to be carrying at least 90 passengers.
Christmas Island, a phosphate mining center about 1,600 miles northwest of Perth, is home to Australia’s main offshore immigration detention center. The island has about 1,400 residents, most of them living near the community of Flying Fish Cove.
The refugee issue has divided Australia and played a role in recent parliamentary elections, where one conservative candidate campaigned on a platform to “stop the boats.” As many as 6,000 undocumented boat refugees arrive in the country each year.
Thanks to Alaric Bond for passing the story along.