PETALING JAYA: Three people on the catamaran that sank off the coast of Sabah have been confirmed dead.
This was revealed in a statement issued by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar.
These three were among 25 people reported “rescued” earlier today.
Authorities confirmed all three were Chinese nationals although there was earlier speculation that one of them was a Malaysian.
Sabah Police Commissioner Ramli Din said the three bodies were pulled out from the waters near Labuan today. He said one of them was a woman.
Ramli said the identity of the dead victims had yet to be ascertained.
“At 3.30pm, we received information that two people were found in the waters near Semarang.
“At 6pm, we were informed that 23 others were also been found in the area, but three of them were dead,” Bernama quoted him as saying.
The two found earlier were identified as Aman Abdul, 38 and Sharezaa Salian Sali, 25, and both are locals.
They were in the water for nearly 18 hours before they were rescued by a speedboat at 4.30am today. The speedboat had left to look for the missing boat from the Tanjung Aru jetty at 8pm last night and heard shouts for help.
The boat, carrying 31 people — three Malaysian crew members and 28 Chinese tourists — went missing after it left Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu for Pulau Mengalum at 9am yesterday, the first day of Chinese New Year.
It was reported missing by the tour agency when it did not arrive even after 12 hours.
Another six people are still missing and a search is ongoing for them, according to Puzi.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim has said the search and rescue mission would continue until all those on the boat were found.
“I was informed by the prime minister’s office that we will use an aircraft that can move and search even at night.
“And I have asked MMEA to take a Bombardier and helicopters that can also look for the remaining victims tonight,” he told a press conference at the Sandakan airport in Sabah.
Meanwhile, Bernama quoted another boat skipper, who left with 32 people from the Tanjung Aru jetty to Pulau Mengalum, that the weather yesterday morning was good.
He said he overtook the other catamaran, which was moving slowly, near Pulau Sapi, near Kota Kinabalu. -FMT