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Search for crew of sunken vessel

Release from Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Fourteen people are missing following the sinking of a foreign vessel about 80 kilometres north-west of Christmas Island overnight.

Five people have been rescued, and the body of another person has been seen in the water. Australia's national search and rescue organisation, AusSAR, is coordinating a 100-square-nautical-miles search for any further survivors.

Two surface vessels, the MV Thor Kirsten, a cargo ship which sails regularly between Christmas Island and Fremantle, and the MV Fatima, a government boat based at Christmas Island, are searching the area, together with a commercial Metroliner aircraft operated by Christmas Island Community Air Services. Federal police based at Christmas Island are organising the surface elements of the search.

An AusSAR spokesman said today the nationality of the sunken vessel and the survivors had not been established. The Australian Customs Service had been briefed on the search.

"A private yacht sighted five people in the water late yesterday," the spokesperson said. "Subsequently the yacht's crew saw another body in the water. The five survivors who had been taken on board indicated that 20 people had been aboard the sunken vessel. The yacht is now returning to Christmas Island."

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