Rescuers search for stricken asylum boat
10:11 AEST Wed Jul 4 2012
Australian rescuers are searching for another asylum-seeker boat believed to be in distress south of Indonesia.
The navy's HMAS Wollongong has raced to the area where the boat - believed to be carrying 130 to 180 asylum seekers - issued a distress call about 4.30am AEST on Wednesday.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says the Wollongong's crew is yet to spot the boat.
"We have never had an exact location," he said, adding dawn was only just breaking in the area.
"They're trying to locate the vessel in the dark."
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare earlier said the boat was believed to be about 50 nautical miles south of Indonesia.
"The boat has rung, said it's in distress, that it's taking on water," Mr Clare told ABC Radio.
"Whenever you have a call like that, you take it seriously."
Mr Clare said the boat was still under way and was heading back towards Indonesia.
Indonesian authorities have called for assistance from commercial vessels in the area.
"If the vessel is sinking, if the vessel cannot make it back to Indonesia, we will have HMAS Wollongong on the scene - as well as any merchant vessels that might be available - to rescue the people on the boat," he said.
The distress call comes just two weeks after a boat carrying about 200 people capsized en route to Christmas Island, leaving an estimated 90 people dead.
A boat carrying 134 people sank last week, leaving four people dead.
Federal parliament last week failed to pass laws that would have restored the government's power to send asylum seekers to other countries for processing.
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