150 missing after Indonesia asylum boat sends out distress call

Rescue workers searched the sea Wednesday for a boat thought to have about 150 people on board that reportedly sent out a distress call off the Indonesia coast.

Six people have since been plucked from the water alive after the asylum boat went missing, but there was no sign of the 144 others on board, reported Agence France-Presse.

"We have had confirmation that six survivors have been rescued by a merchant vessel," an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokeswoman told AFP, adding that it was not clear if more bodies were in the water. "There are no other confirmed survivors so far. The person who called in the distress call said there were 150 people on board and it had engine trouble."

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Two Indonesian helicopters and a rescue boat were sent to look for the ship after being alerted early Wednesday of its situation by the AMSA, according to CNN. The Australians received a distress call from the boat that informed them that there were about 150 people on board. The ship was believed to be off Ujung-Kulon, the western tip of Java.

Australian authorities have now been asked to play a greater role in the search, and a customs surveillance plane was sent from Christmas Island to help, reported Australia's ABC. Three other boats carrying 500 passengers are known to have sunk on the same route in recent years.