Rescuers searched for survivors Friday after a wooden boat packed with Afghan migrants sank off western Indonesia, killing at least nine people and leaving 11 others missing, the navy said.
More than a dozen Afghans have been found alive in the Malacca Strait, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from land, said Al Muhfid, a navy second lieutenant. Most were plucked from the choppy waters by fishermen immediately after Thursday's accident.
The Afghan men, including several who were badly hurt, told authorities they had flown from Afghanistan to Malaysia, where human traffickers offered to help them get by boat to Australia, where they hoped to start a new life.
But nine hours into the journey, as they were nearing Indonesia's coast of Sumatra to refuel, they encountered a dark, thick haze triggered by land-clearing forest fires. They slammed into a fishing platform, putting the boat off balance.
"Just then, they were hit by high waves and the boat capsized," said Muhfid, adding that at least nine people were killed and 11 others remain missing.
Survivors told investigators they wanted to seek political asylum in Indonesia because of the security situation in their homeland, he said, but no decision has yet been made. More interviews need to be carried out with immigration officials, he said.
Indonesia is increasingly being used as a transit point for illegal migrants from war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. The vast seas surrounding the archipelago are treacherous, particularly during high tides in the tropical rainy season.