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Death toll hits 29 in Indonesia boat sinking

September 29, 2013

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The death toll in the sinking of a boat carrying asylum seekers off Indonesia’s coast rose to 29 on Sunday, with dozens more believed to still be missing, an official said.

The boat, believed to be carrying about 100 people, capsized Friday off West Java’s Sukabumi district after being hit by high waves.

Rescuers found eight bodies in three separate places Sunday, said Capt. Warsono, police chief of Agrabinta in the neighboring district of Cianjur.

The number of survivors also increased from 28 to 35, added Warsono, who like many Indonesians uses a single name. He did not disclose where or how the survivors were found. The search for survivors is scheduled to resume Monday.

The boat, carrying asylum seekers from Lebanon, Pakistan and Iraq, was headed for Australia’s Christmas Island. It sank after being hit by up to 6-meter (19-foot) waves hours after leaving Sukabumi early Friday.

There were conflicting reports about the exact number of people on the boat due to the lack of a manifest, but some survivors told officials that about 100 asylum seekers were believed to be aboard the vessel.

Scores of people from war-torn countries use Indonesia as a transit point every year, boarding rickety fishing boats bound for Christmas Island, located 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

The incident came days ahead of new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s first visit to Indonesia on Monday. He is expected to meet with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Indonesia has said that the Australian navy’s plan to intercept and force back Indonesian fishing boats crowded with asylum seekers could breach Indonesian sovereignty.

Update hourly