Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Missing boat disaster victims had no chance

Authorities say there is no chance any of the remaining missing Sri Lankan asylum seekers survived after their boat sank in the Indian Ocean almost three days ago.

Australia's Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has called off the search after medical advice that the remaining nine missing people would not be found.

Twelve people on board the boat died and nine of those have not been found. The dead included two young teens.

Twenty-seven people were rescued, including a 15-year-old.

They were picked up by a nearby ship, the LNG Pioneer, which is now on its way to Christmas Island.

The Government says when the asylum seekers arrive at Christmas Island they will receive medical treatment and mental health support, including grief counselling, before being subjected to health and identity checks.

AMSA chief executive Graham Peachey says conditions at sea were quite rough when the boat went down.

"The sea state out there was pretty ordinary ... a swell of about four or five metres and winds at about 20 kilometres," he said.

"We've had eight aircraft out there over a 230-odd square nautical mile area, so it's been a saturation search. We've deployed vessels, we've had three on the scene."

Mr Peachey says the surviving members of the boat are in good health.

He also said he was confident everything possible had been done to rescue the asylum seekers.

"It's been a very serious effort of the extended period. We deployed everything we could deploy, both in the air and on the surface, to search for these people," he said.

There will be an investigation into search and rescue efforts but Mr Peachey stresses this is merely routine procedure.

"A lot of times it's not necessary because the search and rescue might have been very quick and successful and so on," he said.

"But in operations like this, I think we'll be having a careful look.

"It was over an extended period and it involved a significant deployment of resources and a lot of really serious hard work to find these survivors.

"Out of this there had to be lessons and certainly it's a benefit for us to actually go back and have a look."

It is not yet clear why the boat sank more than 600 kilometres north-west of Cocos Island.

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