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Indian Ocean search and rescue ends -

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Indian Ocean search and rescue ends

Alexandra Kirk reported this story on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 12:14:00

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's Maritime Safety Authority has called off the search for Sri Lankan asylum
seekers whose boat sank in the Indian Ocean two and a half days ago.

Twelve people died but 27 people were rescued and are onboard a gas tanker that is now on its way
to Christmas Island.

The Government says that when the asylum seekers arrive at Christmas Island they'll receive medical
treatment and mental health support, including grief counselling, before being subjected to health
and identity checks.

The Maritime Safety Authority's chief executive, Graham Peachey, spoke to Alexandra Kirk.

GRAHAM PEACHEY: The search was called off this morning and it was called off on the basis of expert
advice, expert medical advice about the survivability of the people affected.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Are you sure that there is not possibility of anyone surviving more than two days
in the Indian Ocean?

GRAHAM PEACHEY: In this case we've acted on the expert advice of medical professionals and that's
certainly their very firm advice and their advice was that by this morning there would be no chance
of survival. The sea state out there was pretty ordinary, I think it was around a four or five
which means a swell of about four or five metres and winds at about 20 kilometres, so it was quite

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you know anything about the condition of the survivors?

GRAHAM PEACHEY: The report to me is that they're in pretty good health, yeah. Our focus has been on
the search and rescue effort and our work has been around deploying all the aircraft and the
vessels and we've had eight aircraft up there over a 230-odd square nautical mile area. So it's
been a saturation search. We've deployed vessels, we've had three on the scene and we now have 27

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Are you satisfied that all that possibly that could have been done, was done?

GRAHAM PEACHEY: Yes I am. It's been a very serious effort over the extended period. We deployed
everything we could deploy both in the air and on the surface to search for these people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is it clear yet how the boat sank?

GRAHAM PEACHEY: No, no it's not.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And will there be an investigation into what happened?

GRAHAM PEACHEY: From the search and rescue point of view we routinely look at what we've done as a
search and rescue agency. That's a routine thing for us. We will be looking at how we responded and
what we did. But that is strictly on the search and rescue activity.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And is that, that's done for all search and rescue operations?

GRAHAM PEACHEY: It's done for the major ones. I mean a lot of times it's not necessary because the
search and rescue might have been very quick and successful and so on. But in operations like this
I think we'll be having a careful look.

Remembering of course that we're talking about an operation that was 640 kilometres from the
mainland, it was over an extended period and it involved a significant deployment of resources and
a lot of, you know, really serious hard work to find these survivors.

So out of this there had to be lessons and certainly it's a benefit for us to actually go back and
have a look.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Graham Peachey from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority speaking to
Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.