Photo © 2012 AAP/Rossbach/Krepp
The federal government has defended the rescue response to an asylum seeker boat that capsized in waters 200km northwest of Christmas Island.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said 110 people had been rescued - about 40 of them found clinging to the upturned hull of the boat on Thursday afternoon - but about 90 others were feared dead.
The government first received a distress call late on Tuesday and again early on Wednesday.
However, the boat was advised to return to Indonesia because it was nearer.
Mr Clare told ABC Radio on Friday a surveillance plane also spotted the boat on Wednesday afternoon.
But it wasn't until late on Thursday afternoon that an RAAF aircraft arrived at the scene and started dropping life rafts.
Mr Clare said the response to the emergency had been appropriate.
He said the information from the aircraft was that there was no visual sign of distress from the boat.
"Nevertheless, Christmas Island Border Protection Command began to pre-position vessels to respond when an urgent request for assistance was requested."
Christmas Island administrator Steven Clay said the first asylum seekers began arriving around 4am (WST) after being triaged from a navy vessel.
Those requiring high priority assistance were brought to the island first.
Mr Clay said three people had been admitted to hospital and the remainder were being ferried to shore.
They were getting medical checks at the Phosphate Hill Detention Centre and appeared calm, he told ABC Radio.
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