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27 Dead After Asylum Boat Smashes onto Australia's Christmas Island

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Uploaded on Dec 15, 2010

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A boat full of refugees smashed onto a rugged part of Australia's Christmas Island during wild seas on Wednesday. 41 refugees were rescued but onlookers looked on helplessly at their struggle. 27 are confirmed dead.

Witnesses on Australia's Christmas Island could do little to help as a wooden boat full of refugees was driven onto rocks in stormy seas.

27 are confirmed dead, but 41 have been rescued according to Customs officials.

Up to 80 people were on board.

[Wayne Swan, Acting Prime Minister]:
"It's very difficult conditions, very difficult weather. We have naval and customs vessels in the area and the rescue is ongoing."

Residents threw life jackets into the sea, but one woman who saw the drama unfold in the Indian Ocean said they were powerless to do more.

[Ingrid, Witness]:
"It was terrifying to watch it. There was nothing, nothing we can do. You don't know, they were lying down, obviously they were very very sick, some of them weren't even moving, some of them were very sick. I saw children on that boat and I could hear children screaming."

The people on board are believed to be from Iran and Iraq.

Christmas Island is a common destination for refugee boats and is home to Australia's main offshore immigration detention center.

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