KOTA KINABALU – Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the relevant authorities are stepping up their search for the catamaran with 28 tourists from China and crew that went missing while on a journey from here to Pulau Mengalum Saturday.
“I have directed the search and rescue (SAR) mission to utilise spotter planes to improve the chances of finding the missing boat and its passengers,” he said in a statement here Sunday.
It has been reported that the skipper of the boat as well as one crew had been found near Pulau Tiga, more than 50km from Pulau Mengalum.
Musa said the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had mobilised the necessary vessels, equipment and manpower for the SAR mission.
“I am told that the MMEA, the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Marine Operations Force have mounted an operation involving some 400 sq nautical miles.
“The authorities are doing their level best to find them. I know this a difficult time for the families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” he said.
Musa also said boat operators should exercise greater caution when bringing people out to sea, especially during rough weather conditions.
The catamaran is believed to have gone missing while en route from the Tanjung Aru jetty here to Pulau Mengalum, about 56km northwest from Kota Kinabalu.
The MMEA said the catamaran left the jetty at 9am on Saturday but failed to reach its destination. It also did not have any radio contact before it went missing.
Meanwhile, China’s Consul-General in Sabah Chen Peijie said that she hoped all 28 of the China nationals would be found safe.
When met by reporters after hearing a briefing on the SAR mission at the MMEA Sabah and Labuan headquarters here, she said she was informed that the search and rescue efforts had been broadened.
“Yesterday (Saturday) was the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year and it should have been a happy day. Unfortunately, such a bad thing (missing tourists) happened,” she said.
In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said that its consulate general in Kota Kinabalu had contacted Malaysian authorities and urged the government to do all it could to rescue the tourists.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the search and rescue team is doing its best to locate the missing boat.
“I, like all the relatives of those on board, am hoping for progress in the search and rescue operation.
“Our forces are trying their best,” he said on Sunday.
The boat was reported missing en route to Pulau Mengalum at about 9.50pm Saturday, more than 12 hours after sailing off from Tanjung Aru.
The MMEA mounted an SAR as soon as the report came in and added more assets on Sunday morning.