Survivors from a boat that capsized in Indonesian waters lie on stretchers on the jetty at Christmas Island in this still image taken from video on Friday.
A boat carrying about 200 refugees capsized in Indonesian waters 120 nautical miles north of Australia's Christmas Island and many are feared drowned, authorities said Thursday.
Western Australia police commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said a ''large number'' of the people on the boat were feared dead, The Australian newspaper reported.
''There were about 200 refugees on board we think. Currently there's about 40 on the hull and the rest are in the water,'' O'Callaghan told the paper.
''Some of the very early reports suggest that up to 75 people may have drowned, but I do stress that they are unconfirmed at this stage,'' he added.
The Australian cited an Indonesian official as saying 100 people from Sri Lanka were reportedly on board the ship.
An Australian customs spokesman said border protection had detected what was believed to be a people-smuggling boat in distress earlier on Thursday.
"Indonesian navy ships are on their way there now," Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) spokesman Gagah Prakoso told Reuters.
The sinking occurred within Indonesia's search and rescue zone and Australian authorities were offering assistance, Australia's Maritime Safety Authority said.
Refugees seeking asylum in Australia often set sail from Indonesia heading for Christmas Island in dangerous and overcrowded boats.
As many as 200 died when an overcrowded boat sank off the coast of East Java in December, 2011. Fifty asylum seekers travelling from Indonesia to Christmas Island died when a storm dashed their boat onto rocks in December 2010. In 2001, a crowded boat known as the SIEV X sank on its way to Australia with the loss of 350 lives.
Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, south of Indonesia, is a popular destination for asylum seekers, who travel by often crowded boats from Indonesia, with the help of people smugglers.
So far this year, more than 50 boats carrying a total of more than 4,000 asylum seekers have been detected by Australian authorities.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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