Amid election campaigning ahead of state polls in Sarawak tomorrow, a helicopter ferrying Malaysian VIPs from the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities went missing in the state last evening.
The helicopter with six people on board, including Deputy Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Noriah Kasnon, went missing at about 5pm while heading to Kuching from a small town east of the state. A search and rescue operation was launched, but at press time, the helicopter remained missing.
In a press conference late last night, the authorities said they did not receive any distress call. The police team deployed to the area combed the place three times but saw no signs of the helicopter.
Besides Ms Noriah, the others on board were her husband Asmuni Abdullah, the ministry's secretary- general Sundaran Annamalai, Kuala Kangsar MP and Malaysian Palm Oil Board member Wan Mohammad Khairil Anuar Wan Ahmad, a personal bodyguard and the pilot.
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Twitter that he had ordered the air force and army to work together in the search and rescue operation. Deputy Premier Zahid Hamidi said the last known location of the helicopter was over a swampy coastal area, according to the New Straits Times. He said a special task force would be set up to probe the incident.
The search is expected to continue today. Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Twitter: "Deeply concerned about reports of helicopter missing between Betong and Kuching... Let us pray for their safety."