Australian authorities on Thursday feared more than 50 suspected asylum seekers were drowned, after their wooden boat smashed onto rocks on Christmas Island, off the north-west coast of Australia on Wednesday.
According to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, there could have been up to 100 passengers, including women and children aboard the Indonesian fishing vessel when it broke up in rough seas. The suspected asylum seekers are believed to be from Iran and Iraq.
The search for survivors continued at first light on Thursday. Australian Customs and Border Protection showed that so far at least 28 people confirmed dead. There are 44 confirmed survivors, in which eleven of the them are children.
Questions were being asked on Thursday about how the boat was allowed to reach Christmas Island without being intercepted.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has cut short a holiday to deal with the crisis and will be given a briefing on the situation later on Thursday.