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Malaysia Expands Search For 6 Missing From Sunken Chinese Tourist Boat


Kota Kinabalu   –   Malaysia on Monday expanded a search for five Chinese tourists and a Malaysian missing after a boat capsized off the coast of Borneo, killing three Chinese passengers and tossing others into stormy seas.

The director-general of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, told newsmen that the boat went down after being battered by heavy waves.

Ab Kahar said that the tourists were tied together and swept away by the current.

“The catamaran carrying 28 Chinese tourists and three crew sank on Saturday as it sailed from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, to the tourist spot of Mengalum.

“The tourists were drifted for several hours, floating in their life jackets before help arrived, while they were picked up by the boats of fishermen who spotted them.

“Three of the tourists were found dead on Sunday, while 22 people, including the boat’s captain, were rescued.

“Military ships and aircraft were scouring an area of 2,400 square nautical miles of sea,’’ the agency head said.

Malaysian maritime officials noted that the search had been hampered by strong wind and choppy waters.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had offered assistance, while neighbouring Brunei has deployed a helicopter and naval assets to help.

The agency said the rescued passengers and crew arrived in Kota Kinabalu on Monday and was taken to hospital.

Anxious family members also arrived in the state capital, to be escorted to the hospital by Chinese embassy officials.

Ab Kahar, told newsmen that the authorities were investigating whether the boat should have been used as a tourist vessel.

“According to the skipper, the boat was ‘broken’ after being hit by strong waves, and sank. All the tourists were tied together and were carried away by the currents,’’ he said.

Media report said police have detained the captain and a crewman for questioning.

Thousands of Chinese visitors flock to Mengalum Island during the long Lunar New Year holidays.

However, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has called for a full investigation to determine the cause of the tragedy.

“At the moment, we must concentrate fully on the search and rescue efforts for six more victims who have not yet been found,’’ he said in a statement.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, China hopes Malaysia will conduct a fair and objective investigation and ascertain the facts about the incident as quickly as possible.

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