Dozens of asylum seekers are feared dead after their boat on Wednesday morning smashed into rocks, and broke apart in rough conditions off Christmas Island of Australia, local media reported.
About 70 people were reportedly aboard the boat, including women and children. The asylum seekers are mainly from Iraq and Iran.
According to Sky News, 41 were rescued but the rest were unaccounted for.
The boat came into local waters early Wednesday without being detected by the authorities. The Australian newspaper reported that waves of four to five meters were washing over the steep limestone cliffs, and the boat was then smashed into rocks in heavy seas at about 6 am near Flying Fish Cove. It is the height of storm season for the area off Australia’s northwest coast.
Customs crews and locals are frantically trying to save survivors of the wreck.
Local electrician Michael Foster involved in the rescue effort estimated that about 30 people died.
“By the time I got down there and saw what was going on, there was debris and people everywhere with life jackets on and so forth but a lot of screaming and carrying on,” he told The World Today on Wednesday.