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25 rescued, Malaysia searches for 6 others from boat sinking

Malaysian authorities expanded the search Monday for six people, including five Chinese tourists, still missing two days after their boat sank off Borneo island

Twenty-three Chinese tourists and two crew members have survived after their boat sank in rough seas off eastern Malaysia, officials said.

Thhree Chinese tourists died.

Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency said in a statement that the search area has been expanded by about four times to 1,500 square nautical miles of the South China Sea, off Sabah state. It said Brunei has also deployed a plane to search in its waters.

The catamaran sank on Saturday – the first day of the Chinese New Year holiday.

It sparked a major air and sea search covering 400 nautical square miles.

“We will deploy search assets that can operate at night, and continue our rescue operations to locate those who are still missing,” Mr Shahidan told a press conference in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah.

The catamaran left Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on Saturday at 09:00 local time (01:00 GMT) and was heading towards Pulau Mengalum, a popular tourist island 60km (37 miles) west of the city.

Three crew members were on board the vessel, along with 31 passengers.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said it received a distress call from the boat but contact was lost soon after.

The owner of the vessel alerted authorities on Saturday night that it had never reached the island, and the search operation was launched.

The boat’s skipper and one of the two surviving crew members were found alive earlier on Sunday off a nearby island, where they had managed to swim to safety.
Eighteen of the tourists were found by fishermen, and five others by a tugboat.

Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak states share Borneo island with Brunei and Indonesia’s Kalimantan province.

Many Chinese travel abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday, which began Saturday.

Source: Daily Sun, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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