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Malaysia searches for 26 missing after boat sinks

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 18, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: June 18, 2014
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BANTING, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian rescuers intensified a search Thursday for 26 people who remained missing after an overcrowded wooden boat carrying Indonesians home in a storm sank in choppy seas. Nine people died and at least 62 people survived.

The boat capsized in the early hours Wednesday about 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) from shore on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur while trying to leave Malaysia illegally for Aceh province in Indonesia.

Maritime agency official Mohamad Hambali Yaakup said more vessels and divers were deployed in the search Thursday. A ship, 24 boats and a helicopter with some 160 staff from the maritime agency, police and the fire department were scouring the area, he said.

Tens of thousands of Indonesians work without legal permits in plantations and other industries in Malaysia, and they travel between the countries by crossing the narrow Strait of Malacca, often in poorly equipped boats.

Indonesian Ambassador Herman Prayitno told local media late Wednesday that the immigrants had paid up to RM1,200 ($373) each for the trip back to Indonesia ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He said the boat was overloaded.

"It is a sad tragedy," he said. "Many of them were in the country illegally as their tourist visas had expired and they had overstayed. They were finding work here but were on their way back to Indonesia for Ramadan."

Hambali said survivors were rescued at sea and found on land after swimming to safety. They included 12 women and a child. A woman and eight men were among the dead, he added.

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