A vessel reportedly carrying 97 illegal Indonesian immigrants has capsized near the Strait of Malacca, off the Malaysian coastal town of Banting, leaving at least 42 people missing.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) official Muhammad Zuri was quoted by Reuters as saying that the boat was heading to Malaysia and was not fit for a sea voyage.
“This was an illegal boat and all the passengers were Indonesian,” Zuri said.
A rescue official said the vessel had departed from Malaysia’s Carey Island and was heading to Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh.
According to initial reports from MMEA, around 31 passengers have been rescued and 66 are missing; however, a local police official said that 55 passengers have been rescued and 42 are unaccounted for.
The agency deployed a helicopter, one large ship and four smaller boats for the rescue operation, and an official stated that several fishing vessels were also aiding the efforts.
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Malaysia is said to be one of the wealthiest economies in South East Asia, attracting illegal immigrants from countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Although stringent measures are believed to be in place to restrict illegal migrants, Malaysia has an estimated two million undocumented immigrants to date.