UPDATE: Five asylum seekers are believed to have drowned after a boat carrying more than 100 asylum seekers sank north of Christmas Island today.
Australian authorities called off the search and rescue operations on Tuesday night after rescuing 106 people, Customs and Border Protection says.
“The suspension follows confirmation from on-scene crews and interviews with survivors that all survivors have been recovered," Customs said in a statement.Information from survivors suggested that up to five people remained unaccounted for, but they may have gone down with the boat.
After an extensive search for survivors or bodies, none was sighted.
“It is therefore believed any people unaccounted for have gone down with part of the vessel,” Customs said.
The 106 survivors are being transferred to Christmas Island for health and security checks.
The search was launched after the Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a request for help from someone on the boat this morning.
HMAS Parramatta reached them at 12.20pm (AEST).
“The vessel was upright, but partially submerged. A number of people were sighted in the water,” Customs said.
The boat was about 120 nautical miles north of Christmas Island.
The tragedy comes as Immigration Minister Tony Burke and Foreign Minister Bob Carr are in Indonesia attending a regional anti-people smuggling conference.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott warned against Senator Carr and Mr Burke signing up to any agreement that may come from the talks due to the fact that the government was in “caretaker mode” ahead of the election next month.