KUALA LUMPUR • Twenty-two Chinese nationals were found alive after their tourist boat sank off eastern Malaysia, but three people died and six remained missing at press time.
Their catamaran sank on Saturday off Sabah state in bad weather, said Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
The survivors were rescued some 32 hours later as they were floating in the waters near Labuan island further south, said one official. Five Chinese tourists and one crew member were still unaccounted for, Mr Shahidan told a press conference in Sabah yesterday.
The boat had left on Saturday morning from the state capital Kota Kinabalu en route for Pulau Mengalum, an island known for its pristine beaches and dive sites located some 53km offshore.
Mr Arwin Musbir, 24, a boat skipper who said he left the Kota Kinabalu jetty at the same time as the ill-fated boat, told New Straits Times that there were children in the other boat. The boat owner reported it missing on Saturday evening.
The boat's skipper and one of the two crew members were found alive yesterday off a nearby island. "According to the skipper, the boat was 'broken' after being hit by waves, and sank," said Mr Ahmad Puzi Kahar, head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), in a statement.
The Malaysian authorities mounted a major air and sea search involving the MMEA, navy and air force, but strong winds and choppy seas hampered the operation.
Sabah Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Pang Yuk Ming said: "Most of them were picked up from the sea in waters off Labuan."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,