Rescuers were returning to treacherous seas Thursday to hunt for any possible survivors after a wooden boat smuggling up to 100 asylum seekers smashed against the cliffs of Christmas Island, tossing people overboard and killing at least 28. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said 44 people had been rescued, including 11 children. He said up to 100 people could have been on board the vessel when it splintered against the limestone rocks.
The deaths underscored the dangers faced by hundreds of refugees who have tried to sail from Indonesia to Australia in recent years—often in cramped, barely seaworthy boats—to start new lives after escaping from poor, war-ravaged countries. Christmas Island residents watched helplessly from a high cliff this morning as the boat struggled in the monstrous waves and then crashed, dumping screaming men, women, and children into the stormy surf.