KUALA LUMPUR: At least 11 Indonesian migrants have died and more are believed to be missing after a boat capsized on Wednesday (Dec 15) in stormy weather off Johor, authorities said.
The boat was reportedly carrying 50 illegal immigrants from Lombok, Indonesia, Bernama reported.
Another 14 people on the boat were saved, with 25 more still missing. The survivors were found on the Tanjung Balau beach and were taken to Tanjung Sepang Malaysian Armed Forces post in Kota Tinggi.
Malaysian authorities are still conducting search and rescue operations.
Soldiers on patrol discovered the bodies of seven men and four women on the shore, coastguard chief Admiral Mohamad Zubil Mat Som told AFP.
Those missing are believed to have fled into hiding or drowned, and authorities have deployed boats and an aircraft to hunt for them.
"We deeply regret this deadly tragedy," Admiral Mohamad Zubil told AFP. "I urge migrants not to enter Malaysia illegally."
The Malaysian Third Infantry Division Command, Terendak Camp, Melaka said in a statement that the incident was reported at around 4.30am and the boat was found in an overturned position and buffeted by waves about 20m from the beach.
"The Quick Response Force team and the MAF drone team were deployed with the assistance of the Royal Malaysian Navy to locate the remaining illegal immigrants around the area,” the statement added.
Johor Maritime Operations deputy director Captain (Maritime) Simon Templer Lo Tusa said search and rescue operations will likely take around four to 10 days, depending on prevailing conditions.
“Investigations will be conducted to find the syndicate mastermind transporting illegals on the capsized boat,” he said during a media conference at the location of the incident.
He also told CNA that rescuers will continue to try their best to locate those who are missing.
“The situation for the 25 is a bit difficult. It’s a question mark where they are. We can’t say for sure if they have drowned or made it to land,” he said.
The captain added that land patrols will be carried out 24/7 in the area.
Sea and air operations will only continue on Thursday morning, he also said. “It’s monsoon (season) and dangerous to do this at night. We will also risk hitting the survivors with the boats because we can’t see (clearly).”
Additional reporting by Amir Yusof.