Nine bodies found in Indonesia boat capsize

JEMBER, Indonesia - Indonesia rescuers found the bodies of nine asylum-seekers Wednesday from an overloaded boat capsize en route to Australia, an official said, as hopes of finding more survivors dwindled.

"We found them floating in the waters near Banyuwangi district, 200 miles away from where the boat capsized on Saturday," East Java search and rescue agency chief Sutrisno told AFP.

"We are now evacuating them," he said, adding that more rescuers were deployed to the area to scour for bodies.

So far, at least 47 survivors have been rescued after the vessel, which had a capacity of 100 but was carrying 250 mostly Afghan and Iranian migrants, sank 40 nautical miles off eastern Java.

Thirty-four migrants were plucked from shark-infested waters by fishermen on Saturday, and 13 others were found drifting in a dinghy on Monday.

Officials said they were trying to establish whether two Indonesians found Monday near eastern Java's Malang city were crew members. One of the Indonesians told AFP he was a fisherman.

Survivors said they were heading to Australia's Christmas Island, a favoured destination for people-smugglers lying closer to Indonesia than Australia and where nearly 50 would-be migrants are believed to have died in a shipwreck in December 2010.

The latest capsize is considered the "largest loss of life" yet from a sinking of one of the many boats packed with Asian and Middle Eastern migrants who undertake the perilous sea voyage from Indonesia to Australia.

The Australian newspaper reported Monday that a principal suspect in sending the latest boat was an associate of the jailed kingpin Sayed Abbas, whose extradition Australia is seeking from Indonesia.