MALANG, Indonesia (AFP) - Indonesia was questioning more than 70 mostly Afghan asylum seekers bound for Australia Saturday after their boat was hit by a powerful wave, forcing them to swim to shore, officials said.
Residents in Wonogoro beach on the eastern coast of Java island reported seeing scores of people wash up onto the shore late Friday night, some beginning to run away, Malang police chief Rinto Djatmono told AFP.
"We found 43 last night including three children and one woman. They are being questioned by the Malang city immigration office and they are all in a healthy condition," Djatmono said.
Police detained another 30 late Saturday morning and are still looking for more believed to be missing. There was no search operation at sea.
Jahmadi Ahkhalik, 55, was making the journey with his wife and four children.
"I paid $5,000 for my family to get out of Afghanistan and get on this boat. I sold everything I had of any value to do it," he told AFP.
He said he had waited in Indonesia for eight months before getting on the boat bound for Australia's Christmas Island, which is closer to Java than mainland Australia.
Ali Ahmad, 17, said he travelled through Malaysia and the Indonesian capital Jakarta, which cost him around $5,000, including the boat journey.
"I didn't even tell my family. They don't know I was trying to go to Australia," he said.
Some of the asylum seekers had already been processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Djatmono said.
Officials were told by different asylum seekers that there were between 83 and 100 on the boat.
"From what they've told us, we know their engine had broken down two days earlier, and a strong wave hit the boat and destroyed the vessel," Djatmono said, adding it was unclear how far they had swum
Last week, Indonesian authorities said they believed dozens of mostly Afghan asylum seekers had fled a leaky boat with malfunctioning engines found on Lombok island, near the resort island of Bali. Those asylum seekers have not been found, and police have made no connection between the two cases.
Indonesia is a common transit point for asylum seekers trying to reach Australia, but many of the overloaded rickety boats do not make it.