Asylum seeker boat adrift in Indonesian waters
26 July 2012
TONY EASTLEY: A small boat carrying around 70 asylum seekers in Indonesian waters has sent out a distress call begging for help.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority confirmed it received a call from somebody on the vessel late yesterday morning. But the boat, north-west of Bali, couldn't be located by Indonesian search and rescue.
Indonesian authorities suspended their search last night saying they didn't have the equipment to work after dark. Those on board the stricken boat say its engine has failed and it's taking water.
Indonesia correspondent George Roberts managed to speak to some of the people on the boat.
GEORGE ROBERTS: Hello, can you hear me? What's wrong and where are you?
AHMED: Can you speak English?
GEORGE ROBERTS: Yes, I speak English. Where are you?
FEMALE: Hello, Bali.
GEORGE ROBERTS: (Speaking in Bahasa Indonesia).
FEMALE: Yes, yes.
GEORGE ROBERTS: Whereabouts are you?
AHMED: We are exactly next to the Madura Island.
GEORGE ROBERTS: Next to Madura Island?
AHMED: Madura, Madura.
GEORGE ROBERTS: Madura. What is wrong with the boat? Are you safe?
AHMED: Yeah, we are safe, we are safe.
GEORGE ROBERTS: Is there water coming on board or is the engine just broken down?
GEORGE ROBERTS: That's the kind of confusion Australian authorities have been dealing with since yesterday morning when they first got a distress call from the same boat. But after looking for half a day and no luck Indonesian search and rescue gave up looking for the night and things got worse.
Ahmed told us the boat was taking on water and it mightn't last long.
AHMED: Help me please fast because this ship is not going to be at all safe more than one hour.
GEORGE ROBERTS: It's not going to last more than one hour?
AHMED: Yeah, yeah, because the pump doesn't work.
GEORGE ROBERTS: The pump doesn't work. Is there water on board the boat?
AHMED: Yeah, the water is coming to the boat and so dangerous for people.
GEORGE ROBERTS: A series of frantic phone calls later and he managed to provide basic GPS coordinates.
AHMED: So you can help us?
GEORGE ROBERTS: I will pass it on to rescue authorities.
AHMED: Okay, okay.
GEORGE ROBERTS: The asylum seekers weren't interested in being rescued by the country they are trying to leave.
FEMALE: You have told Indonesia?
GEORGE ROBERTS: Yes, I told Indonesian search and rescue.
FEMALE: Why? I come to Australia.
GEORGE ROBERTS: Australia is not coordinating the rescue so…
FEMALE: No, no, no, no.
GEORGE ROBERTS: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority also had the boats rough position but it's deep inside Indonesian waters so they couldn't help.
As the night wore on, the pleading got stronger as did the danger.
AHMED: Why you can't come now? It's so dangerous!
GEORGE ROBERTS: Ahmed says there are 70 people on board and only about 15 lifejackets.
But after a long night of battling the seas, there is some good news for the asylum seekers. The Indonesian rescue authority says it's resumed the search with spotlights and navy support.
This is George Roberts in Jakarta for AM.
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