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Asia-pacific

Scores feared drowned as migrant boat sinks off Malaysia coast

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-19

Sixty-six people are feared drowned after a boat carrying Indonesian illegal migrants sank off Malaysia’s west coast early on Wednesday, a maritime official said.

“A wooden boat with 97 Indonesians has sank off Port Klang near Banting,” Mohamad Zuri, spokesman for the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, told reporters.

The boat was likely carrying three times more passengers than it could safely transport, authorities said Thursday, as they expanded a search for 26 still missing.

Nine bodies have been found after the vessel, overloaded with people heading home to Indonesia for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, sank early Wednesday not far from shore off western Malaysia.

Sixty-two people have been rescued and officials believe some of the 26 still missing made it to land and fled the area to avoid being apprehended by police.

The passengers included women and children and the boat was not fit for a sea voyage, Zuri told Reuters.

“This was an illegal boat and all the passengers were Indonesian,” Zuri said.

The agency had sent one boat to the area to search for survivors and was sending two more, the spokesman said. Malaysia’s New Straits Times said the boat sank around midnight on Tuesday about two miles (3 km) from the coastal town of Banting on the Strait of Malacca.

No reason was immediately given for the accident. Tens of thousands of Indonesians work illegally in plantations and other industries in Malaysia. They sometimes risk dangerous boat journeys to return home.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-06-18

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