KOTA KINABALU – The search and rescue (SAR) operation for four more tourists from China and a crew member who are still missing after a catamaran capsized in the waters of Sabah on Saturday will continue over the next 24 hours.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director-general Maritime Admiral Datuk Seri Ahmad Puzi Kahar said two sets of crew would be deployed by the agencies involved in the operation, namely the MMEA, Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM), Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM).
He said about 20 types of marine and air assets, including two used by the Brunei authorities to look for the victims in their waters, were used in Monday’s operation alone.
“Today (Monday), we covered an area of 2,000 square miles compared to only 400 square miles Sunday and 1,000 square miles a day earlier.
“Overall, the search area covered today is 2,400 square miles if we take into account the search in the waters of Brunei,” Ahmad Puzi told reporters after participating in the operation here Monday.
Also involved in the SAR was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.
Ahmad Puzi said based on the locations where 23 other victims were found Sunday evening, the MMEA did not rule out the possibility of the missing victims drifting west, and hence, the operation Monday also headed in that direction.
He said a total of 350 enforcement and rescue personnel were involved in the operation, not including those assisting from their respective offices.
Asked on the capacity of the capsize catamaran, Ahmad Puzi said a statement on the matter would only be made after a comprehensive investigation had been carried out.
“Our priority now is to focus on the search and rescue,” he said.
The catamaran with three crew and 28 tourists from China was reported to have capsized due to strong winds and big waves on Saturday, an hour after it left the Tanjung Aru jetty.
On Sunday, three of the tourists were found dead, while 22 other people, including the skipper and a crew, were pulled out of the waters safely.