Crew fled with life vests as packed Indonesian boat sank

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – The crew and captain of an  Indonesian boat packed with illegal immigrants grabbed life  vests and swam away as it sank during a heavy storm, leaving  more than 200 passengers missing, Australian media reported yesterday.

Surviving asylum seekers said terrified passengers on the  boat that was heading for Australia were left to drown as it  broke apart in stormy seas about 90 km (55 miles) off the coast  of Java, Indonesia.

“The captain and six crew took the life vests and started  swimming away,” Pakistani Saed Mohammad Zia, 18, told the Daily  Telegraph.

“They were all from Indonesia. We lost sight of them in the  big waves and we never saw them again. We don’t know if they  were rescued.”

The number of survivors, missing and those feared dead is  still not clear, authorities said of the latest of such  disasters in recent years for immigrants travelling via  Indonesia in search of a better life in Australia.

Many of the passengers on the wooden vessel, which sank on  Saturday, are believed to be economic migrants from countries  including Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those that survived suffered severe dehydration and  exhaustion after struggling to stay afloat in the rough seas,  some clinging to wreckage for five hours.

“We were just praying to God that someone would help us. We  thought it was the last of our life story,” said Esmat Adine,  24, from Afghanistan.

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