KUALA LUMPUR • Five more bodies, believed to be those of illegal Indonesian migrants, were found in Malaysia yesterday following a boat tragedy, raising the death toll to 18, police said.
Thirteen bodies were found on Tuesday after their boat capsized in rough seas off southern Johor state.
Local police chief superintendent Rahmat Othman said the five male bodies were found on the beach.
"They were trying to enter Malaysia illegally. We will continue the search and rescue mission because investigations revealed that there could have been between 30 and 35 people on board the twin-engine boat," he said.
Supt Rahmat said there had been local reports of some survivors making it to shore. "Some of the passengers managed to swim to safety, though it is unclear how many survived," he said.
"We believe the remaining missing migrants could have either drowned or are hiding in nearby jungles waiting for smugglers to take them to a safe destination."
The bodies of nine men and nine women have been taken to a hospital for a post-mortem.
Supt Rahmat said the illegal migrants could have departed from the nearby Indonesian island of Batam. The southern Johor state has a long coastline and shares a maritime border with Indonesia, making illegal entry into Malaysia easy. Malaysia is the third-largest economy in South-east Asia.
About two million Indonesians live in Malaysia. Many are employed in labour-intensive jobs, such as in plantations and as domestic helpers.
Deadly accidents in the strait are not uncommon, with illegal migrants typically attempting the crossing in rickety vessels and often at night to avoid detection.
Choppy sea conditions and strong winds have been identified as the main factors which had caused the Indonesian migrants' boat to capsize, according to The Star.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK