Rush of asylum-seekers before Australian crackdown
Mr. Nistorescu said the six rescued, all Afghan men, appeared to be in good condition and had been in the water for almost 24 hours. Women and children also were aboard the asylum-seeker boat when it sank, he said.
He added that he believed he saw bodies in the water.
“I think I saw some of them dead,” he said.
Other merchant ships, Indonesian government ships, and Australian military boats and planes also were involved in the search.
Indonesian search-and-rescue official Sunarbowo Sandi said that an Australian navy patrol boat and other merchant ships later retrieved an additional 49 survivors. He said six of them were hurt and in critical condition.
“High waves are hampering our search and rescue efforts,” Mr. Sandi said.
The distress call was received by Australian authorities early Wednesday by satellite phone from someone aboard the missing boat requesting help. The person said there were 150 people aboard and the vessel had engine trouble. The boat was then 9 miles off Java, officials said.
Indonesian authorities initially searched with two boats and a helicopter but had found no trace of the boat by late Wednesday.
The merchant ship found the first six survivors after Australia expanded the search area.
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report from Jakarta, Indonesia.