KUALA LUMPUR: Rescuers were searching for 40 missing Indonesians including women and children on Saturday after a boat carrying them home to celebrate the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan sank off Malaysia.
Two ships, four speedboats and two helicopters have been dispatched to scour the seas off Malaysia’s southern Johor state to look for the missing, said Amran Daud, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
“Our operations are ongoing but we have found nothing yet,” Amran told Agence France-Presse.
The boat, thought to be carrying 44 passengers, sank in heavy seas Thursday night around 13 nautical miles off the coast, he said, adding four were rescued on Friday.
It is thought the Indonesians chose to travel on the boat because they were working illegally in Malaysia and wished to bypass border controls on their trip home.
The boat sank roughly three hours into its journey from Tanjung Sedili on the state’s east coast to In-donesia’s Batam island with its passengers hoping to return for Eid al-Fitr, the most important Muslim holiday, Amran said.
“The condition of the boat was believed to be questionable,” Amran said, adding that authorities were still investigating the cause of the wooden boat’s sinking.
Three of the survivors were rescued by passing fishermen, while another was saved by authorities who started search and rescue efforts after being alerted by the fishermen.
“Only four of those on board were rescued by fishermen and MMEA after floating 15 hours in the sea,” Amran said.
Thousands of people regional neighbors, such as Indonesia and Myanmar, risk journeys in flimsy boats to work illegally in the relatively affluent country.
Many Indonesians try to leave the country during Ra-madan to return home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families. The holiday begins on Thursday.