5 dead after boat sinks off Malaysia
THIRTY-TWO people remained missing yesterday and five were confirmed dead after an apparently overloaded boat carrying Indonesian illegal migrants heading home for Ramadan sank overnight in rough seas off western Malaysia.
Officials said 60 people had been rescued, or made it to land by themselves, after the accident around midnight near Port Klang, Malaysia's largest port.
"Thirty-two people are still missing. We have found the bodies of four men and a woman. They died due to drowning," said Mohamad Hambali Yaakup, head of the Port Klang office of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
"Rough seas are making our rescue operation difficult. But we will continue the search until the remaining 32 people are found," he said.
The boat sank not far from shore, raising hopes that many of the missing had made it to safety on their own, Mr Mohamad Hambali added.
The officials believe that 97 passengers were aboard the wooden boat, including some children.
They said that the rescued passengers told them that they were seeking to return home to Indonesia for Ramadan.
The authorities had initially said that the passengers were believed to be seeking to enter Malaysia.
"From interviews with those rescued, they said they were returning to Aceh (in northern Sumatra). They did not have any travel documents," said Mr Mohamad Hambali. "We believe that the boat was overcrowded and the sea was rough when the incident happened."
Access to survivors was not immediately available as they had been taken into police custody.
The authorities said that five vessels and a helicopter were being used to search for survivors.
Two million illegal migrants - the vast majority of them from Indonesia - are estimated to be working in Malaysia.