Search for Sabah boat victims enters Sarawak waters

Survivors from the Sabah shipwreck being carried out from an ambulance at the Malaysia Marine Operation Force post in Kota Kinabalu on Jan 29, 2017.
Survivors from the Sabah shipwreck being carried out from an ambulance at the Malaysia Marine Operation Force post in Kota Kinabalu on Jan 29, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

KOTA KINABALU - The search for the missing Chinese tourists and a crew member of the catamaran that sank on Saturday (Jan 28) off Sabah state has now been expanded into the waters off Miri, Sarawak.

Since Sunday, the search has been concentrated on Sabah and Brunei waters.

Maritime Rescue sub-centre officer Nur Hafiza Hasan, who gave a briefing on the latest search and rescue efforts on Wednesday, was quoted as saying by The Star that the search area has been widened from 3,000 to 3,900 square nautical miles.

"Assets have also increased from 20 to 22 today (Wednesday)," she said.

Nur Hafizah said rescuers may encounter problems on Wednesday, due to the strong winds and choppy seas that have been forecast.

A total of 20 assets from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Air Force, Navy, marine police and the Brunei air force are involved in the operation.

 
 
 

Authorities found he body of a man found floating in the waters off Pulau Mamutik not far from Kota Kinabalu on Wednesday morning, but they are still trying to confirm whether the body is that of the six people still missing.

On Jan 28, the catamaran with 31 people on board - comprising 28 Chinese nationals and three crew members - sank at about 10am, about an hour after departing the Tanjung Aru jetty.

The search effort began immediately after the company operating the vessel reported the mishap to the authorities 12 hours after the incident.

Twenty of the Chinese tourists survived the 32-hour ordeal at sea, while three died in the mishap.

Earlier, the authorities had said there were only four Chinese tourists missing amid discrepancies with the boat's passenger list, Xinhua reported. But Sabah police commissioner Ramli Din confirmed on Tuesday that authorities are now looking for the five tourists and one Malaysian crewman still missing.

The discrepancies arose because one of the survivors had boarded with his wife and daughter but only his name was registered and the two are now still unaccounted for, police said.

On Monday, police had said one of the tourists had registered for the trip but did not board.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang, who was visiting the surviving Chinese tourists in hospital on Wednesday, called on Malaysia to continue the search and rescue operations until all the missing passengers are found, the Malay Mail Online website reported. 

“We request that the search and rescue be continued till every last missing person is found. We cannot give up hope until everyone is accounted for,” Mr Huang was quoted saying. 

Mr Huang also praised the search and rescue efforts but said he hoped the Malaysian government would provide a clear explanation of the incident and the measures being taken to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.