The acting head of Australia’s border protection operation has defended the response of authorities to the sinking of a boat off the coast of Indonesia.
Operation Sovereign Borders acting Commander, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, said 31 people died and 22 survived following the incident off Java on Friday.
However, Indonesian authorities say the death toll has risen to 36 and concede the search operation is now about recovering the dead rather than finding anyone else alive.
The federal coalition government had been under fire for its alleged delayed response to the distressed vessel after some survivors said the tragedy could have been prevented.
Air Marshal Binskin on Monday praised the “professional and timely” response of authorities, saying “Australian authorities took every step available to them in responding to this incident”.
“Australian authorities conducted extensive work to attempt to locate the vessel, providing highly capable search aircraft and diverting up to four merchant ships,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“Despite these efforts no searching ships or aircraft ever sighted the vessel.”
Air Marshal Binskin disputed claims authorities had delayed their response by 26 hours.
“I would like to just clarify that at no point did AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) indicate that assistance would be provided in two hours, as has been reported to the media,” he said.
“Nor was AMSA aware of the vessel for 26 hours prior to the vessel foundering, as has also been reported.