A journey to freedom ended tragically when more than 350 people - Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers - drowned after their overcrowded boat sank off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Forty-four survivors battled high seas and soaring mid-day heat to cling onto pieces of driftwood for 20 hours before they were rescued Saturday night.
"The conditions were unlike anything you could imagine, worse than anything you've seen in the movie Titanic," said 19-year-old Rami Amjaad who, with his mother, was among the survivors.
The vessel, loaded with at least 400 people, began taking on water within hours of leaving a remote island off the coast of Sumatra Oct. 18 heading for Australia, survivors said. The crew, an Iraqi and two Indonesians, told the passengers, including up to 80 children, that the water pump was working and that there were sufficient life jackets.
The following day and far from shore, the boat foundered, forcing panicked passengers to bail water with cooking pots and plates and heave overboard their worldly possessions in a vain attempt to keep it afloat. At 2:30 p.m. local time, the boat capsized but a group of men rallied to right the stricken, 19-meter-long, three-meter-wide fishing boat. However, within minutes it broke up and sank, spilling dazed survivors and thousands of gallons of fuel into the ocean.