At least three Chinese nationals died and six are still missing after their tourist boat sank off eastern Malaysia on Saturday in bad weather. The authorities said 22 tourists have been rescued alive and the rescue operation is going on.
Shahidan Kassim, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said in a press conference that five Chinese tourists and one crew member were still unaccounted for. An official said the rescued survivors were found some 32 hours after the boat sank. They were found floating in the waters near Labuan island further south. They were taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Monday shortly after arriving at the Marine Police jetty. "Their skin was sensitive and they were all dehydrated," Shahidan added, referring to those rescued tourists.
On Saturday morning, the tourist boat started from the state capital Kota Kinabalu at around 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) for Pulau Mengalum, a famous tourist destination which is located some 53km offshore. The boat owner reported it missing on Saturday evening at about 9.50 p.m. Rahim Ramli, the deputy director of Sabah and Labuan Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said a search and rescue operation for the missing vessel was launched immediately.
Ahmad Puzi Kahar, head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), said in a statement that the boat's skipper and one of the two crew members were found alive on Sunday off a nearby island. "According to the skipper, the boat was 'broken' after being hit by waves, and sank," Kahar said.
The Malaysian authorities said the search area covers 400 nautical square miles and it was getting difficult for the rescue teams to work due to strong winds and choppy seas that hampered the operation. The search teams included the MMEA, navy and air force.