After the wooden boat broke apart, 41 survivors were plucked from the sea and one person made it to shore on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island.
"Twenty-seven people have been confirmed dead" and "the community of Christmas Island is reeling after a boat full of asylum seekers crashed into cliffs near the main town center," Australia's news.com.au reports.
The BBC adds that "Australian Customs officials said 42 people had been rescued." Most of those on the boat are thought to have been from Iran and Iraq, according to the BBC. Their boat was reportedly smashed by rough seas.
Simon Prince, who owns a dive shop near the site of the disaster, told news.com.au that "I'm just starting to be really haunted by what I saw. ... A little dead child, face down in the water — I can't seem to shake that. ... I just wish we had a lot more life jackets. Those people needed more."
Christmas Island is about 1,600 miles northwest of Perth and 220 miles south of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. It is a self-governing territory of Australia with about 1,400 people. The CIA World Factbook says it is "about three-quarters the size of Washington, D.C."