x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Asylum seeker shipwreck toll likely to reach 48

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard says the toll from Christmas Island refugee shipwreck is likely to reach 48, with 18 people unaccounted for.

SYDNEY  // ABOUT 48 people died after a refugee boat was wrecked in heavy seas off Australia last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Monday, adding that a definitive toll may never be known.

"We may never know the precise number but the advice to me is that the best estimate at present is that there were around 90 people on the boat," Gillard told reporters.

"That does mean of course that we are still not able to account for around 18 people."

The bodies of 30 Iranian, Kurdish and Iraqi refugees have already been recovered following last Wednesday's smash on rocks at remote Christmas Island, venue of Australia's main asylum centre, while 42 people were rescued.