More than two dozen people are confirmed dead after a boat laden with refugees is wrecked off Christmas Island.
Australian TV footage shows refugees clinging desperately to the wreckage of their boat off Christmas Island hoping for rescue.
By 0400GMT on Thursday at least 28 people were confirmed dead after the vessel smashed onto razor-sharp rocks in high seas.
The casualties are said to include children.
It's feared the final number of dead could be much higher.
By the same time on Thursday less than half of the 100 would-be asylum seekers who may have been on board had been rescued.
Two women pulled alive from the sea after the boat foundered have arrived in Perth on the Australian mainland for medical treatment.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service says they're suffering from conditions caused by spending a long time in the water.
Police say the boat appeared to be Indonesian but most of its passengers were Iraqis and Iranians.
Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has cut short her Christmas break because of the tragedy.
"I know the nation is shocked by what we have seen. We condemn the trade of people-smuggling. It is an evil trade but I believe Australians are responding to these events today as human beings."
Gillard's coming under pressure to explain how the tragedy happened when other refugee boats have been intercepted in open seas.
A coroner's inquiry is expected to open soon to determine the reasons for what happened on the rocks of Christmas Island.
Paul Chapman, Reuters