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4 dead, 130 rescued from capsizing off Aussie isle

CANBERRA, Australia — Four people are believed to have died and 130 others were rescued after a crowded boat carrying asylum seekers to Australia capsized and sank Wednesday, less than a week after more than 90 people drowned on a similar journey.

The incident, which occurred midway between Australia’s Christmas Island and the main Indonesian island of Java, has renewed Australian government efforts to deter a growing stream of boat arrivals by legislating to deport them to other Southeast Asian or Pacific countries.

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An air and sea search for survivors ended late Wednesday when the Australian Maritime Safety Authority determined that no one beyond the 130 rescued had survived the sinking of the wooden Indonesian fishing boat. Only one body had been recovered.

‘‘Based on information from the survivors, including crew members, it is now believed that there were 134 people on board and that three people went down with the vessel,’’ the authority said in a statement.

Three merchant ships, two Australian warships, and an Australian air force plane that can drop life rafts to the sea responded to the capsizing.

The search area was 120 miles north of Christmas Island and 115 miles south of Java.

The boat capsized in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone but Australian authorities raised the alarm after the crew made a satellite phone call to Australian police.

Last Thursday, 110 people were rescued when a boat carrying more than 200 mostly Afghan asylum seekers capsized just 15 miles from the latest tragedy. Only 17 bodies were recovered.

The survivors’ refugee applications were being assessed at Christmas Island, where Australia runs an immigration detention center.

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