BREAKING – asylum wreck at Christmas Island

Dozens of asylum seekers are feared dead after their boat smashed into rocks and broke apart in rough conditions off Christmas Island this morning.

Customs crews and locals are frantically trying to save survivors of the wreck, near Flying Fish Cove.

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Christmas Island shire councillor Kamar Ismail says around 20 locals watched as the tragedy unfolded, throwing life jackets into the water.

“The boat hit a rock and smashed into pieces … it was horrific,” he told ABC News 24.

“We as the locals travelled there to give a hand but it was just too dangerous for us.

“I was there, [the boat] was floating, people were swimming for help,” he said.

“A big wave smashed the boat into the rocks and smashed it into pieces. We weren’t far from the rocks … we were maybe three metres from the cliff. But we just couldn’t help … it was just too dangerous.”

Mr Ismail estimates there were 50 to 60 people aboard the boat, including children, before it smashed into pieces.

He says rescue boats arrived about 10 to 20 minutes after the boat hit the rock.

He says he saw some people picked up by the rescue boats but he does not know how many.

He says there was no opportunity for anyone in the water to reach the rocks and the best they could do was to cling on to debris.

Customs has confirmed that those on the boat include women and children. The asylum seekers are mainly from Iraq and Iran.

Photos herehttp://www.abc.net.au/news/photos/2010/12/15/3093915.htm

Article quoted from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/12/15/3093766.htm accessed today 15th Dec 520pm

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