Many feared killed in tragedy

Several of the people on a boat believed to have been carrying mostly Sri Lankans which capsized off Christmas Island in Australia today are believed to have been killed.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan as saying about 40 people were spotted on the upturned hull, others were in the water and up to 75 others may be dead.

“We have grave fears for the remainder,” he told reporters.

Mr O’Callaghan said it was likely the bodies would be taken to Christmas Island and Western Australia might become responsible for a coronial inquiry.

The External Affairs Ministry in Sri Lanka told the Colombo Gazette that its missions in Australia and Indonesia were also monitoring the situation.

Up to 200 people were on board the vessel, which was on its way from Sri Lanka to Australia.

Indonesia’s search and rescue authority BASARNAS is co-ordinating the search with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

AMSA confirmed there are definitely survivors but was unable to give numbers.

The Australian mission involves Defence aircraft equipped with life rafts, a Customs maritime surveillance aircraft, and two Armidale class patrol boats, HMAS Larrakia and Wollongong.

A number of civilian vessels are also on the way to the area.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare is being briefed and may make a statement later on Thursday night, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is likely to discuss the situation with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at a breakfast event they are both attending in Rio, Brazil, on Thursday.