Asia-Pacific

Thursday 21 August 2014

Wooden boat capsizes off Malaysian coast - 66 people missing

Published 18/06/2014 | 10:24

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A Malaysia Maritime helicopter is seen in the air during a search and rescue for the suspected illegal Indonesian immigrants, off Malaysia's western coast, outside Kuala Lumpur June 18, 2014. An overloaded wooden boat carrying 97 suspected illegal Indonesian immigrants sank off Malaysia's western coast on Wednesday, with rescuers searching for at least 42 missing people, Malaysian officials said. REUTERS/Samsul Said (MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
An overloaded wooden boat carrying 97 suspected illegal Indonesian immigrants sank off Malaysia's western coast. Reuters/Samsul Said
A Malaysia Maritime officer looks out into the sea during a search and rescue in Kuala Langat outside Kuala Lumpur, off Malaysia's western coast, June 18, 2014. An overloaded wooden boat carrying 97 suspected illegal Indonesian immigrants sank off Malaysia's western coast on Wednesday, with rescuers searching for at least 42 missing people, Malaysian officials said. REUTERS/Samsul Said (MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS)
A Malaysia Maritime officer looks out into the sea during a search and rescue in Kuala Langat outside Kuala Lumpur, off Malaysia's western coast. Reuters/Samsul Said
Malaysian search and rescue personnel gather to plan for the conduct of a search mission on the outskirt of Banting, Malaysia, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. A wooden boat carrying more than 90 Indonesian migrants capsized and sank after leaving Malaysia's west coast, and rescuers scrambled to save more than 60 people still missing, Malaysia's maritime agency said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Malaysian search and rescue personnel gather to plan for the conduct of a search mission on the outskirt of Banting, Malaysia. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

A rescue operation is under way after a wooden boat carrying 97 Indonesian migrants capsized and sank after leaving Malaysia's west coast, with 66 people still missing.

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The boat sank shortly after midnight about two nautical miles from shore on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur while trying to leave Malaysia illegally, Malaysia's maritime agency said.

An agency official said the Indonesians, including women and children, were believed to be heading home ahead of the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Thirty-one people had been rescued so far, the official said. A ship and several boats were searching for survivors and a helicopter was being dispatched.

No reason was immediately given for the accident.

Tens of thousands of Indonesians work illegally in plantations and other industries in Malaysia, sometimes risking dangerous boat journeys to return home.

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