In this photo taken with a mobile phone, villagers help survivors from a boat that sank off Java island. The boat carrying dozens of asylum seekers sank en route to Australia. (AP Photo)
PHOTO: ap photo
In this photo taken with a mobile phone, villagers help survivors from a boat that sank off Java island. The boat carrying dozens of asylum seekers sank en route to Australia. (AP Photo)

Story highlights

Many children lay among the lifeless bodies authorities pulled from the seas

28 others emerged alive from the waters and and are receiving treatment at a hospital

Rescuers continue to search for 30 more whose fate is uncertain

For many, Australia is the land of their hopes, but the government forbids boat people

(CNN) —  

They had gambled with their lives to journey from as far as Iraq and Lebanon in search of a better life. But for 22 people the wager ended in death off the coast of Indonesia, after their vessel capsized, a government spokesman said Saturday.

Many children lay among the lifeless bodies authorities pulled from the seas of the coast off West Java.

But 28 others emerged alive from the waters and received treatment for minor injuries at a hospital in Cianjur, said Martinus Sitompol, an Indonesian government spokesman.

Rescuers continue to search for 30 more people believed to be on the boat, when it overturned. Their fate is yet uncertain. Many of them likely lie buried far beneath the waves.

Sitompol could only wager a guess why the boat capsized. He said some on the boat were from Iraq and Lebanon.

“It’s possible they ran out of fuel,” he surmised. “It’s possible that they didn’t know how to man or steer the boat.”

There are many ways for overfilled, unseaworthy crafts off the coast of Indonesia to spill the people they were carrying into the ocean. It happens many times a year.

The Australian media said the vessel was headed for Australia’s Christmas Island, a common landing point for such boats.

For some, Australia is the land of their hopes, but the government there has had its fill of capsizing, broken down refuge boats and enacted legislation this year to dash them. It is now forbidden for illegal immigrants arriving by boat to ever live on Australian soil.

This mishap precedes a visit by new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Indonesia.

Such dangerous boats carrying asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australian shores have long been a sore spot with its government.