THE AUSTRALIAN, THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Australia)
A boat carrying about 200 asylum-seekers bound for Australia has capsized off the Indonesian coast.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports an Australian Customs surveillance aircraft spotted a boat in distress about 120 nautical miles north of Christmas Island.
According to the The Australian daily newspaper, Australian search and rescue authorities have requested permission to enter Indonesian air space to assist searching for the boat. Three merchant vessels and two Australian military ships are on their way. Indonesia has dispatched two Navy ships. A number of civilian boats are also responding to the disaster.
Three other boats, carrying about 238 people, adds the Sydney Morning Herald, were intercepted near Christmas Island in the past 24 hours. So far this year, more than 4800 asylum seekers have already risked the perilous journey to Australia by sea, many of them from Sri Lanka.
Christmas Island, an island situated halfway between Australia and Indonesia, is a popular destination for boatpeople, who can apply for refugee status in Australia once theyve landed on the island.