No distress in asylum seekers' calls for help

27 June 2013

An inquest into the deaths of more than 100 asylum seekers when their boat capsized in waters between Indonesia and Christmas Island, has been adjourned in Perth.

The Coroner's Court yesterday heard evidence from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which defended a decision by the Rescue Coordination Centre Australia not to launch a rescue immediately.

AMSA's Alan Lloyd told the court the boat was not considered to be in distress when a decision was made to hand control of the situation over to Indonesian Authorities.

Mr Lloyd said despite numerous calls from passengers on the vessel saying they were fearful for their safety, it did not mean there was a distress situation.

The men made dozens of calls to Rescue Coordination Australia but operators struggled to hear above wind noise.

Audio of the calls have been released.

"I cannot hear you, you need to get out of the wind, you need to get away from the wind," the call operator said.

Australian authorities launched a rescue two days after the initial call, when an Australian plane spotted the capsized boat.

The authorities rescued 110 people, but 102 died.

The court will hear from a number of survivors from the disaster when the inquest resumes next month.


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