Authorities combing the sea for five Chinese tourists and one Malaysian crew member from a boat that sank in rough seas off eastern Malaysia have expanded the search area, an official told AFP today.
The sinking of the catamaran off Sabah state on Borneo Island on Saturday, Jan 28, the first day of the lunar new year holiday, sparked a major air and sea search covering some 400 nautical square miles.
“The search area is now 1,500 nautical square miles,” Awil Kamsari, a spokesman for the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, said.
“They (the six people missing) could have drifted further, so we have to expand the search area.”
Around 100 officers from the MMEA, navy and air force are involved in the mission as well as a C130 aircraft.
Part of the search area falls in Brunei waters and authorities there are using a helicopter to hunt for the missing six, Awil added.
Search efforts were abandoned due to rough sea conditions and bad weather on Sunday night but resumed Monday morning.
The boat left from Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu for Pulau Mengalum, an island known for its pristine beaches and dive sites.
The boat owner reported it missing on Saturday evening.
The skipper and a crew member were found alive Sunday off a nearby island, before the discovery of the other survivors.
The skipper told authorities the boat had “broken” when hit by strong waves and the vessel had sunk.
Late Sunday, authorities announced three Chinese passengers were dead.
Twenty Chinese tourists were rescued and sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.
A Malaysian official in Sabah told AFP the Chinese survivors “looked shocked” and some of them “could not walk and looked very tired” as they were taken to the hospital.
He said they managed to survive because of their life jackets and by holding on to objects from the boat. – AFP