SYDNEY (AP) — A boat carrying around 100 asylum seekers sank in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday, and Australian officials were hurrying to rescue passengers from the water.
The boat sank about 220 kilometers (140 miles) north of Christmas Island, where Australia operates a detention camp for asylum seekers. There were an estimated 105 people on board, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement.
The agency said it received a call for help Tuesday morning, and an Australian navy ship was sent to the scene. Rescue officials reported the asylum seeker boat had sunk when they arrived.
A merchant ship and rescue plane were also on the scene, and another Navy ship and plane were headed to the area to help.
“This is an ongoing search and rescue operation and no further information is available at this stage,” the maritime agency said in a statement.
Christmas Island, located around 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Jakarta, Indonesia, is a popular destination for asylum seekers who crowd into rickety boats at Indonesian ports and pay smugglers to bring them to Australian shores. Hundreds have died while attempting the journey in recent years.
Australia is trying to discourage such risky journeys and announced last month it would no longer accept asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Instead, it is evaluating their claims and resettling verified refugees in Papua New Guinea or Nauru.