Merchant and navy ships and five aircraft resumed the search for almost 100 people missing in the Indian Ocean a day after a crowded refugee boat capsized between Indonesia and Australia's Christmas Island territory.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said 110 people had been rescued, including a 13-year-old boy, with three dead bodies pulled from the water, around 200 km north of Christmas Island.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, attending the United Nations Rio summit in Brazil, said she had spoken to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about the tragedy.
"At this stage details are sketchy, but what is apparent is that there has been a large loss of life at sea," Gillard told reporters in Rio de Janeiro.
Asylum seekers are a hot political issue in Australia. So far this year, more than 50 boats carrying more than 4,000 asylum seekers have been detected by Australian authorities.
Refugees seeking asylum in Australia often set sail from Indonesia heading for Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island in dangerous and overcrowded boats, with the help of people smugglers.
In December 2011, as many as 200 died when an overcrowded boat sank off the coast of East Java in December, 2011. In 2010, 50 asylum seekers died when their boat was thrown onto rocks at Christmas Island. In 2001, a crowded boat known as the SIEV X sank on its way to Australia with the loss of 350 lives.
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