Twenty-three Chinese tourists and two crew members have been found alive after their boat sank off eastern Malaysia but six people remain missing, a minister said today.
The figures were given by Shahidan Kassim, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, after the catamaran sank on Saturday off Sabah, reported AFP.
Five Chinese and one crew member are still unaccounted for, Shahidan told a press conference in Sabah.
The nationality of the crew members was unclear.
The boat had left yesterday morning from Kota Kinabalu en route for Pulau Mengalum, an island known for its pristine beaches and dive sites.
The boat owner reported it missing yesterday evening.
The skipper and one of the two crew members were found alive earlier today off a nearby island, before the news broke of the other survivors.
“According to the skipper, the boat was ‘broken’ after being hit by waves and sank,” said Ahmad Puzi Kahar, head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), in a statement.
Meanwhile, Bernama reported that authorities would check on whether the catamaran was registered in Sabah or elsewhere.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Pang Yuk Ming said the Sabah government had ruled that catamarans could carry a maximum of 12 people, including the crew and skipper.
“A catamaran has a capacity of more than 30 passengers. However, the Sabah government limits the number of passengers for tourism purposes,” he told reporters at the MMEA, Sabah and Labuan Headquarters.
Catamarans registered outside Sabah can carry more than 30 passengers.
Pang said Jesselton Point and not Tanjung Aru Jetty, is the normal jetty used by boats to reach tourist resorts on islands on the west coast of Sabah.
The operator’s decision to switch to Tanjung Aru Jetty could be due to high passenger traffic at Jessselton Point due to the Chinese New Year celebration.
China’s Consul General in Sabah, Chen Peijie said that the country’s leadership took serious view of the incident which received wide coverage in China.
The diplomat said family members in China can contact China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 12308 for more information on their family members.
The catamaran sank en route from Tanjung Aru Jetty to Pulau Mengalum, about 56 km northwest of Kota Kinabalu yesterday.
The MMEA said the catamaran carrying 31 people, including 28 tourists from China, left Tanjung Aru Jetty at 9am.