Thu June 21, 2012 6:54pm
A BOAT carrying 200 asylum seekers has capsized off Christmas Island, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has confirmed.
The Australian reports a spokeswoman for AMSA said the agency "was aware of the incident and has passed on information to Basarnas (the Indonesian search and rescure authority) who are coordinating the response".
The spokeswoman said initial reports suggest the boat was carrying 200 people and capsized 110 nautical miles off Christmas Island.
Australian searchers have seen survivors in the water with merchant ships racing to the scene of the disaster.
The boat has overturned in Indonesian waters and the Australian Government has offered assistance.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Search and Rescue Authority said survivors had been spotted.
“There are survivors, we cannot confirm numbers at this stage,” she said.
Two Australian patrol boats are heading to the scene as well as a Orion PC3 aircraft.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has confirmed a search and rescue operation is underway.
Customs and Border Protection say they will release a statement with more details shortly.
Customs said the vessel was about 110 nautical miles (200km) north of Christmas Island in the Indonesian search and rescue Region.
Indonesia's BASARNAS was the lead authority for coordinating search and rescue efforts, while ASMA was organising the Australian end.
"Customs and Border Protection and Defence assets are being deployed," Customs said in a statement.
This included a Defence aircraft equipped with life rafts, a Customs maritime surveillance aircraft, and two Armidale class patrol boats, HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Wollongong.
A number of civilian vessels were also responding.
The stricken vessel was spotted about 3pm AEST on Thursday by a Customs surveillance plane.
MORE TO COME