35 Indonesians missing after Malaysia boat accidents

June 20, 2014 - 1:23:03 am

PORT KLANG: Malaysian authorities yesterday were searching for 35 people following two boat accidents at a time when illegal migrant workers head home to Indonesia for Ramadan.

In the latest incident, nine people were missing off western Malaysia after a boat believed to be bound for Sumatra sank, said Mohamad Hambali Yaakup, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). A passing vessel, MMEA boats and a helicopter rescued 18, he said. Three were hospitalised, while the rest are in MMEA’s custody. Interviews with survivors revealed the boat sank amid strong winds near the district of Sepang, south of capital Kuala Lumpur.

The accident came to light as authorities expanded a search for survivors of another boat -- also bound for Sumatra -- that sank just up the coast near Port Klang, the country’s main sea port, with 97 Indonesians aboard.

Nine bodies have been found, while 26 people remain missing, though officials believe some of them made it to land and fled the area to avoid arrest. Officials said they were investigating the accidents, but both boats sank in rough seas and were overloaded, with the first one carrying more than three times its capacity.

Divers were deployed, more vessels brought in and the search zone for the first sinking expanded along the coast.