More than 350 drown when ship sinks off Indonesia

Monday, October 22, 2001

GENEVA (AP) -- More than 350 people -- most of them Iraqis -- drowned when their boat sank off the coast of Indonesia, the International Organization for Migration said Monday.

The organization said it was looking after 44 survivors who were rescued from the sea on Saturday, a day after the boat went down of the island of Java.

The survivors told IOM workers that the ship left Java on Thursday with 421 people on board, mostly illegal migrants, IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said.

Later that day, 21 passengers asked to get off the boat and were put ashore on an island in the Java Sea.

Early Friday, the captain announced that the engine had stopped and the ship was taking on water. "The boat sank in 10 minutes," said Chauzy, from the offices of the non-governmental agency in Geneva.

He said the 44 survivors were being cared for in the town of Bogor in Java. They included an 8-year-old boy who lost 21 relatives.

Chauzy said most of the migrants on board were Iraqis, but there were also Iranians, Afghans, Palestinians and Algerians.

He said he did not have any information on where the ship was headed.

Every year thousands of migrants pass through the waters of Southeast Asia in their search for better lives. Many leaving Indonesia are headed for Australia.

In August, a Norwegian freighter rescued more than 400 people from a sinking Indonesian ferry off the coast of Christmas Island. Australia refused entry to the asylum seekers and they were eventually sent to New Zealand and to the remote Pacific island of Nauru.

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