11 Indonesians dead, 25 missing in boat sinking off Johor

Ongoing search and rescue efforts to look for those who are still missing, near Tanjung Balau in Johor, on Dec 15, 2021. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KOTA TINGGI (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP) - At least 11 Indonesian migrants died and 25 are believed to be missing after a boat sank on Wednesday (Dec 15) in stormy weather off southern Malaysia, authorities said.

Indonesians looking for work sometimes try to enter neighbouring Malaysia illegally by making sea crossings in rickety boats, and accidents happen regularly.

The vessel, believed to be carrying 50 migrants, went down in the morning off Malaysia’s southern state of Johor, the coastguard said, correcting an earlier figure of 60 it released.

The bodies of the foreigners were found washed up on a beach, while others were rescued after their boat capsized near Tanjung Balau.

Soldiers on patrol discovered the bodies of seven men and four women on the shore, coastguard chief Admiral Mohamad Zubil Mat Som told AFP.

They are believed to be undocumented migrants.

A Johor Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said the boat, which carried 50 people before it capsized, was spotted at about 20m from shore at around 7.40am on Wednesday.

Another 14 people were found alive following the voyage from a nearby Indonesian island, and have been taken into custody, the coastguard said.

Those missing are believed to have fled into hiding or drowned, and authorities have deployed boats and an aircraft to hunt for them.

The director of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), First Admiral Nurul Hizam Zakaria, said the victims were believed to have entered Malaysian waters illegally before the boat capsized because of bad weather.

"After the Fire and Rescue Department alerted us to the incident, MMEA personnel were deployed to the scene to help in the search-and-rescue effort to find the remaining 29 victims," he said. "The MMEA despatched an AW139 Agusta aircraft, a KM Tegas patrol boat and Petir 50 boat to track (them) down."

"We deeply regret this deadly tragedy," coastguard chief Zubil told AFP. "I urge migrants not to enter Malaysia illegally." 

Relatively affluent Malaysia is home to millions of migrants from poorer parts of Asia, many of them undocumented, and they work in industries including construction and agriculture.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.