Australia is launching a criminal investigation into a Christmas Island shipwreck that killed at least 28 people.

More bodies may still be pulled out of the sea after the boat carrying around 100 suspected asylum seekers crashed into rocks, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The flimsy wooden boat smashed into pieces, killing 28 people. Forty two people were rescued.

It is believed that the passengers were asylum seekers travelling to Australia from Indonesia.

27 dead in Christmas Island tragedy

“We do not know with any certainty how many people there were on the boat so we’ve got to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that more bodies will be found and that there has been further loss of life than we know now with the numbers available to us,” said Ms Gillard.

Christmas Island residents heard passengers’ screams as the heavy sea caused the boat to smash against the island’s rocky shoreline. Witnesses said that survivors clung onto pieces of the wreckage in the pounding surf.

Christmas Island resident Simon Prince, told Associated Press: “The engine had failed. They were washing backward and forward very close to the cliffs here, which are jagged limestone cliffs, very nasty.
“When the boat hit the cliff there was a sickening crack. All the people on board rushed to the land side, which is the worst thing they could do.”