Their fear was stoked with the arrival yesterday of another boatload of Tamils, the fourth since Friday.
Cocos resident Jack O’Donnell spotted the boat about 8am about 300m offshore at the edge of a treacherous coral reef when four men started swimming for shore through big surf.
“They got to shore about half-eight and were quite exhausted,” Mr O’Donnell said.
“One beckoned to his mouth. Whether they were thirsty or hungry I was not sure but my wife Lyn gave them water and an apple each and there wasn’t a core left.
“They were skinny guys. They are not dangerous people, just very desperate, gentle Tamils.”
The men indicated 65 other people were on the boat and Mr O’Donnell raced on his motor scooter to alert police who sent out a tender to help navigate the boat safely into the lagoon.
Mr O’Donnell, who runs a Perth electronics business for eight months of the year, said he was worried about what would happen if people smugglers continued their tactics during the monsoon season, which begins in November.
“What they have discovered is that Cocos is halfway between Sri Lanka and Perth and some whiz-kid has worked out they can cut out the middle men in Indonesia by going direct,” he said.
“I’d be surprised if there was not a very large loss of life if this continues in the monsoon season.”
The 69 Tamils arrived just hours after Customs vessel Hervey Bay intercepted a boat carrying 28 people west of Cocos Islands.
They will be held at Cocos, then moved to Christmas Island. (The West Australian).