Hundreds of migrants still missing off Indonesia

December 18, 2011 05:19

JAKARTA - At least 217 people were missing, and possibly scores more, after an overcrowded boat packed with illegal immigrants heading for Australia sank in heavy seas overnight off the coast of east Java in Indonesia, authorities said on Sunday.

Many of the passengers on the wooden vessel are believed to be economic migrants from countries including Iran and Afghanistan. Indonesia is a transit point for illegal immigrants from the Middle East who cross the Indian Ocean in search of a better life in Australia.

Authorities gave differing accounts of the number of people missing and the potential casualty toll.

Sahrul Arifin, head of emergency and logistics at the East Java Disaster Mitigation Center, said only 76 people of 380 people on board had been rescued.

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