A boat carrying about 150 suspected asylum seekers has capsized off Australia’s Christmas Island with several casualties reported. The Australian border agency said four bodies had been found and 144 survivors had been picked up by navy ships, 70 nautical miles (130km) from the shore. Christmas island is located about 1,600 miles north-west off the mainland.
Several boats carrying migrants heading for Australia have disappeared in recent months. After making a distress call, the boat was picked up and escorted by one of two navy ships carrying out the rescue. However, it tipped over in bad weather on its way to Christmas Island, with a large number of people entering the water. A Royal Australian Air Force plane deployed a number of life-rafts, and the two ships were able to pull 144 migrants alive from the water.
In a separate incident on Saturday, 88 asylum seekers were rescued after their boat sank off the same island. A baby boy died in the accident and eight people went missing, presumed dead. The boat, which set off from Indonesia, was reportedly carrying asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Christmas Island is the closest area of Australian territory to Indonesia. Many asylum seekers try to reach it hoping to move on to the mainland.