Asylum-seeker boat carrying 95 capsizes off Australia

SYDNEY (AFP) - An asylum-seeker boat carrying 95 people capsized off Australia on Monday and while maritime officials said all had been accounted for, the administrator of Christmas Island said at least two died.

The boat was spotted by Australian customs 14 nautical miles northwest of the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

"All the people have been accounted for, and there are a number who have needed medical attention," a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority told AFP.

But Mr Jon Stanhope, the Christmas Island administrator, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that at least two were dead.

"My advice is that regrettably two asylum-seekers have drowned and I also have advice that two other asylum-seekers are seriously unwell, are critically unwell," he said.

Mr Stanhope added that the customs vessel happened to be close to the boat at the time and was able to respond quickly.

Australia is facing a steady influx of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, many of whom use Indonesia as a transit hub, paying people-smugglers for passage on leaky wooden vessels after fleeing their home countries.

Hundreds have died making the treacherous journey over the past few years.

Earlier this month, a naval vessel plucked 77 asylum-seekers to safety after their boat broke up on the way to Australia.

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