Channel NewsAsia

Death toll in boat accident off Malaysia rises to four

Malaysian maritime authorities found two more bodies floating in the sea Wednesday after a boat carrying illegal Indonesian migrants sank, raising the confirmed death toll to four with seven still missing.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian maritime authorities found two more bodies floating in the sea Wednesday after a boat carrying illegal Indonesian migrants sank, raising the confirmed death toll to four with seven still missing.

The fibreglass boat, believed to be carrying 72 people, capsized late Monday off the southern state of Johor.

The Indonesians on board were trying to return home to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A total of 61 including the two boatmen were rescued.

Two more bodies -- both men -- were found in the water on Wednesday, said Aminuddin Abdul Rashid, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

He said the search for the seven still missing would continue.

The boat, heading to Indonesia's Batam island, sank while being pursued by a maritime patrol vessel.

Aminuddin had said the boat rammed into the agency's vessel when trying to escape, causing it to be damaged.

Boat accidents off Malaysia are common as migrants from Indonesia and other regional countries flock to the relatively affluent Southeast Asian nation in search of work.

An estimated two million foreigners are believed to be in the country without valid papers, with many sneaking in and out along the long coastline.

Malaysian authorities have stepped up patrols this month as many Indonesians seek to return to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, Islam's biggest festival, which marks the end of the fasting month.

More than a dozen Indonesians died and about two dozen others went missing last month in two boat accidents in rough weather off Malaysia's west coast.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia