8 more bodies recovered as search efforts enter 2nd day after boat capsizes off Johor
17 people are still missing. The death toll is now 19.
KOTA TINGGI, Johor: Rescuers recovered eight more bodies on Thursday morning (Dec 16), a day after a boat capsized in stormy weather off Johor’s Tanjung Balau Beach.
This was the second day that Malaysian authorities were conducting search and rescue operations. On Wednesday, 11 people were found dead while 14 people were rescued.
The boat was believed to be carrying 50 illegal immigrants from Indonesia.
Speaking to CNA at the search and rescue operations staging area, Johor Maritime Operations deputy director Captain (Maritime) Simon Templer Lo Ak Tusa said that six of the bodies recovered on Thursday were male while two were female.
He said that all eight were washed ashore on Tanjung Balau beach, within 2km of the incident site.
“We are still looking for the 17 people who are missing. We will continue our search operations, via land, sea and air to find them,” he said.
In a press conference, the captain said: “The status of the 50 who were on the boat are classified as illegal immigrants because foreigners who want to enter Malaysia are required to do so at the legal entry points gazetted by the Malaysian government.”
“When the boat capsized yesterday, we regarded them as illegal immigrants because of various factors, including the fact their boat was not registered … and they did not have any legal documents. So we regard them as illegal immigrants unless further investigations indicate otherwise,” he added.
Rescuers at Tanjung Balau beach were seen wearing full protective equipment when recovering the bodies. The bodies were sent to the Tanjung Sepang Malaysian Armed Forces post in Kota Tinggi.
Petty officer for Johor Maritime Operations Nik Rozi Nik Abdullah told CNA that the immigrants were all travelling on a single boat that capsized.
He said the boat likely capsized due to high waves and strong currents.
He added that the boat, which was found on Wednesday, had four engines, each of which had 200 horsepower.
COORDINATOR AND MASTERMIND BEHIND SYNDICATE IDENTIFIED
In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Capt Simon said that Malaysian authorities have identified the coordinator as well as the mastermind behind the syndicate which arranged for the entry of these immigrants.
"I’d like to inform you that based on reports by the army and police, we have identified the coordinators and mastermind for the syndicate that brought these illegal immigrants to enter Malaysia. Now the relevant authorities are just initiating further action," he said.
"Our authorities work closely with Indonesian authorities on this issue because this incident has led to so many deaths," the captain added.
When asked how this particular boat managed to pass through marine defence, he said bad weather has impacted the ability for radar to detect the boat.
"The radar has limitations in certain periods, and if the sea is choppy in heavy weather, it will disrupt our radar transmission and ability to detect (boats carrying illegal immigrants)," the captain said.
He added that the search and rescue operations will be carried out for at least four days in total to locate the missing people.
"Following our protocols, the search and rescue will continue for at least four days in total, and after that, this will depend on any indications or signs we get," he said.