MORE than 200 asylum seekers are feared to have died after their boat sank off Java, victims of increasingly brazen syndicates that are funnelling people through Jakarta airport before packing them onto unsafe boats bound for Australia.
Just over a year after a disaster off Christmas Island in which 50 people died, a boat carrying about 250 asylum seekers sank off Prigi beach in eastern Java on Saturday.
There were conflicting reports last night about how many people survived. Indonesian officials said there were only 34 - contradicting Australia's new Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, who said 87 asylum seekers had been rescued.
The Afghans and Iranians who survived five hours in the water included two boys aged about 10 and two women, while the rest were adult males.
An Afghan survivor, Esmat Adine, described the sinking as ''like the Titanic''. The boat capsized quickly from the rear, he told the Indonesian news site tribunnews.com. ''We tried to hold onto anything,'' he said.
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